Ganesh Chaturthi began in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Friday on a contrasting note amid Covid-19 restrictions and protocols.
Unlike last year when the 10-day festival was confined to homes in view of the pandemic, Telangana, this year, allowed installation of idols in public places.
However, in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, authorities have decided not to allow Ganesh pandals and immersion this year too.
As part of implementing the Covid-19 protocol and as per the advisory from the Home Ministry, the Director General of Police in Andhra Pradesh issued an order denying permission to hold Ganesh festival celebrations at public places.
The move by Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government drew strong criticism from opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Andhra Pradesh High Court, however, upheld the decision of the state government not to permit Ganesh festivities at public places by erecting pandals. The court said Ganesh idols and pandals can be set up in private places. However, the number of participants in the puja is limited to five.
In Telangana, the festivities began with pomp and gaiety. Hectic activity was seen in markets in Hyderabad and other towns in the state on the eve of the festival with devotees buying idols and puja material.
With no restrictions on installation of Ganesh idols at public places, large number of idols were seen being transported in trucks to different parts of Greater Hyderabad.
Devotees offered puja since morning at their homes, temples and in specially-erected pandals. Authorities appealed to the organisers of pandals to ensure strict adherence to Covid-19 precautionary measures like wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing.
For the first time in over four decades, no Ganesh pandals were erected at public places in Hyderabad last year.
The 10-day long festival will conclude with massive immersion procession in Hyderabad on September 19. Hundreds of idols are immersed every year in Hussain Sagar lake in the heart of the city and several other lakes in and around the state capital.
The Telangana High Court on Thursday directed the authorities not to allow immersion of idols made with plaster of Paris (PoP) in Hussain Sagar and other water bodies.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao and Justice T. Vinod Kumar also asked the officials to explore the use of an inflatable rubber dam used during dredging operations in the Hussain Sagar to form pools to immerse the idols.
The court also directed the authorities not to allow immersion of idols into Hussain Sagar on the Tank Bund side as the stretch was recently renovated.
The court also asked authorities to take steps to ensure that idols are not brought to Hussain Sagar lake from far-off places and encourage immersion locally.
Telangana Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan and her Haryana counterpart Bandaru Dattatreya worshipped the famous Ganesh idol at Khairatabad. This year, the organisers have installed 40-feet tall idol.
Large number of devotees from Hyderabad and other districts made a beeline to offer puja at Khairatabad. Police imposed traffic restrictions in the area to ensure smooth conduct of the festivities.
Greeting people on Ganesh Chaturthi, Soundararajan appealed to them to follow all Covid precautions. “Those who have not taken vaccine should take it as this the only way we can protect ourselves,” she said.
Dattatreya said he prayed for an end to the pandemic and the well-being and prosperity of all. He said the festival is celebrated every year in an atmosphere of communal harmony.
Union Culture and Tourism Minister G. Kishan Reddy also offered worship at Khairatabad. He also participated in puja programme held at the BJP office.
Telangana minister T. Srinivas Yadav and local MLA Danam Nagender were among the other prominent people who offered prayers at Khairatabad Ganesh.
The Governor also held Ganesh puja at Raj Bhavan along with the staff members.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his wife Shobha performed special pooja on the occasion of Vinayaka Chavithi at Pragathi Bhavan, the official residence of the Chief Minister.
The Chief Minister’s son and minister K.T. Rama Rao, his wife Shailima, MP Santosh Kumar, CM’s grandson Himanshu, granddaughter Alekhya and others participated in the puja.
Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP President N. Chandrababu Naidu offered puja at NTR Trust Bhavan in Hyderabad.