Goa CM reverses ban on priests visiting homes for Ganesh Chaturthi puja

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has scrapped his government’s Covid SOPs for the upcoming Ganesh Chaturthi season issued by the state administration, saying he does not agree with a specific guideline which bars priests from visiting homes to offer puja on the festive occasion.

The Congress on Wednesday slammed the BJP-led coalition government for the confusion ahead of the state’s most important Hindu festival, especially at a time when Covid cases have witnessed an increase in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra.

“I personally do not agree with some of the guidelines that were issued in the SOP, especially the one stopping priests from going to individual households for puja. Ganesh Chaturthi is the most important festival in Goa and such rituals are an integral part of it,” Sawant said, while announcing his decision to scrap the SOPs.

“While the expert committee may have suggested such curbs, I have asked the administration to withdraw the SoP immediately. Chaturthi must be celebrated with full fervour while taking all the necessary precautions, given the pandemic,” Sawant said.

The SOPs had urged families to use technology and social media platforms to perform puja on their own.

“The priest shall be prohibited [from] performing Ganesh Pooja by going to individual households, they may perform online pooja. Also the families should be encouraged to perform self puja using various technological means like YouTube, WhatsApp, etc,” the now cancelled SOPs also previously said.

The SOPs earlier issued by the state government had said that Ganesh Chaturthi ‘aartis’ and other allied programmes should be held via the online mode instead, especially when it came to public celebration of the festival, which the now-scrapped SOP said should be “preferably encouraged to conduct ‘Aarati’, ‘bhajan’, ‘kirtan’ and other religious programmes through online mode… or any other electronic media, instead of cultural programmes”.

The SOPs also said that organisers of public Ganesh celebrations “should give priority in organizing health camps including blood donation camps and through these programmes IEC activity may be carried out on corona, malaria, dengue and other diseases”.

The SOPs had also urged families to immerse the Ganesh idol — at the end of the festivities — in their own houses, instead of the standard custom where worshippers move out in groups to immerse Ganesh idols at the nearest water body like a lake, river or sea.

“However, if it is not possible, then only immersion should be carried out at the nearest immersion point. No processions shall be allowed while bringing the idols to the immersion point. No gathering after the immersion will be allowed,” the SOPs had said.

The Congress in Goa has slammed the government for the faux pas.

“Such an important SOP, connected to the majority of people who follow Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa. Such SOPs not passing through the CM is doubtful. Such a situation arises when the Goa administration is being run by bureaucrats,” party spokesperson Trajano D’mello said.

“In my opinion, this has been done essentially to divert the hurt feelings of every citizen of the state, due to the high prices that they are not in a position to celebrate with the same pomp and enthusiasm that Ganesh is celebrated all these years,” D’Mello added.