In any other year, the people of Mangalore would go all out for Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations by wearing brand new clothes, swarming the markets in search of flowers and more, playing bhajans through loudspeakers and of course parading the idols of Lord Ganesha through the bustling streets.
In the Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesh is the harbinger of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles. Every year he is said to return from Mount Kailash to visit his subjects and to bring with himself good luck. Even Though there isn’t much clarity about the beginning of the festival, it is a popular belief that the festival gained importance during the reign of Shivaji and during the mughal-maratha wars. The festival is celebrated in various states across india and by the hindu populace living outside india in countries like australia, canada, trinidad and tobago, and many more.
Clay idols of Lord Ganesha are installed either privately in homes or publicly on temporary stages called mandalas. Vedic hymns, mantras and bhajans are chanted during Puja and some people also observe Vrata which is the act of fasting. Sweets such as the Modaka are made in bulk and shared with the people in the community after the daily prayers. This particular sweet is said to be Lord Ganesha’s favourite and is a must have while celebrating this festival. Ten days after the festivities start these clay statues are carried to the nearest water bodies to be immersed and thereby to become one with the water. It is believed that the lord makes his return to Mount Kailash in this way and will come to visit his subjects the following year which is as the tradition holds. Lord ganesha is also worshipped as the God of Wisdom and Intelligence. In various places several athletic and martial arts competitions are held in public along with the reading of religious texts. All in all it is a festival of celebration, of welcoming the new, of not being afraid of the obstacles one might come across in one’s life and of communion.
However since COVID- 19 has taken a toll on everything in one’s lifestyle, celebrations like Ganesh Chathurthi that were once celebrated with grand gestures and even grander crowds who join each other in harmony, love and joy are now confined to the safety of their homes. This has now become the “new normal” and the district administrations have taken measures to completely ban public celebrations and ensure certain safety guidelines for the celebrations set in place by the Central government so that each citizen can play their part in reducing communal spread of the disease.
- Government suggests that the celebrations may be held in homes and temples modestly. This means that one saves the celebration for the following year so that we will all be well and disease- free.
- Idols immersion restricted: The traditional immersion of Lord Ganesha idols in ponds, rivers and ponds are restricted.
- Processions: Crowding can increase the threat of communal spread. Thus, processions that usually follow the idol are strictly prohibited.
- In your own surroundings: Immersion of idols that are installed in one’s homes are to be immersed in one’s own surroundings with very few members and avoid crowding even if it’s at home.
- Temples where daily rituals take place in relation to the festival are to maintain daily sanitation.
- Devotees who wish to enter the temple are to be subjected to thermal scanning, use sanitisers provided by the temple authorities, wear masks and maintain all social distancing protocols. Temple authorities must strictly supervise this and ensure the same.
It is true that celebrations have changed drastically after the massive outbreak of Coronavirus. One may want to go back to the old ways and not follow rules and regulations. But one must remember that it is each one’s responsibility to not pose a threat to themselves, their families and in turn the society. So let us ensure that we spend and celebrate this year’s Ganesh Chathurthi in the safety of our homes.