Prayers on lips, devotion in hearts, Maha soaks in Ganeshotsav spirit!

After two years of the Coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Ganeshotsav 2022 started with a big bang, gigantic idols, lavish colourful thematic decorations and piety all over Maharashtra, with celebs, corporates and commoners immersing in the spirit of the 10-day festival, here on Wednesday.

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, various state and central cabinet ministers like Narayan Rane, Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar, Bharatiya Janata Party city and state chiefs Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Ashish Shelar and other prominent leaders welcomed the elephant-headed Lord Ganesh for the fest amid music, dance, pomp and pageantry.

Several ex-CMs or union ministers like Nationalist Congress President Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan, Congress state President Nana Patole, city chief Bhai Jagtap, Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan, Balasaheb Thorat, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray, ex-Mayor Kishori Pednekar, and other well-known leaders also installed big and small idols of Lord Ganesh for worship.

Other celebs like the Ambanis, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Nana Patekar, Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty, Riteish and Genelia Deshmukh, Vidya Balan, Shilpa Shetty, Shreyas Talpade, Vivek Oberoi, Govinda, Sonali Bendre and many more are celebrating Ganeshotsav with idols at their homes.

Many other celebs like Sachin Tendulkar, Rani Mukherjee and others started their day with the customary visit to pray at one of the Ganesh Temples in their vicinity.

A festive atmosphere prevailed at the 8 top Ganpati Temples – Ashtavinayak – all ‘swayambhu’ (self-manifested) in Raigad, Pune and Ahmednagar districts, with thousands thronging for ‘darshan’ and ‘pujas’ since early morning.

After two years, idols of 2-feet (household) and 4-feet (public marquees), the familiar large and gigantic idols of Lord Ganesha returned to the celebrations, awing the masses.

The state’s tallest – 38-feet Lord Ganesha – in a Parashuram ‘avatar’ is installed at 11th Khetwadi Lane in south Mumbai, while the all-time favourite, Lalbaugcha Raja in Laulbaug has mesmerising form of over 18 feet enthralling devotees who throng here 24 hours daily for ‘darshan’, and the richest, GSB Seva Mandal Matunga’s Lord Ganesh idol of gold, silver and precious stones, with an insurance cover of a staggering Rs 316.50 crore this year.

As in the past, there are several regular or innovative themes, mostly around the 75th Independence Year, Lord Ganesha in various forms/avatars, in some marquees sitting with his parents Lord Shiv and Parvati, in different colours, moods and sitting, standing, aggressive or benign poses, wowing the beholders.

An estimated around 300 large or gigantic idols adorn the city landscape this year, besides other medium or small idols in mandals and households, companies, factories, or certain railway stations, all over, with official estimates of nearly a million idols to be worshipped this year in Maharashtra.

With so many choices, thousands of people, some celebs, domestic and foreign tourists have chalked out elaborate plans for ‘pandal-hopping’, trooping to various marquees, for ‘darshan’, joining ‘puja’ and partaking of ‘prasad and blessings’.

Several big and small Ganeshotsav organisers admit that with the massive inflation this year, all budgets have gone haywire with prices of all stuff for decoration, the costs of erecting the big and small pandals, security, prasad and other eatables shooting up between 25-40 per cent.

“Since we are coming in a big way after two years of subdued celebrations, there’s no way to cut corners, so we somehow trying to pull on hoping for some recovery through donations, offerings or sponsors,a said an office-bearer of the BrihanMumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanway Samiti, the apex body of all public celebrations in the city.

Another organiser said that they are counting on the turnout after the two-year hiatus to fill up their offering boxes which will help balance their budgets, though they would be barely left with anything for other welfare or charitable activities.

Elsewhere, Pune is also witnessing pompous celebrations, while the traditional celebrations are seen in the coastal Konkan belt where thousands of villages and homes have come alive in the Ganeshotsav fest, twinkling fairy lights beckoning the visitors from afar in the remote hilly or coastal or tribal villages.

Lakhs of people from Konkan, living or working in Mumbai, Thane, Pune and other major cities have gone to their native villages for full-fledged Ganeshotsav celebrations, braving delays, massive traffic snarls, bad roads, the sudden downpour, high ticket rates, etc.

“Barring these ‘vighnas’ (obstacles), the ordinary people are revelling in the festive atmosphere, and make the most of the Lord Ganesha’ blessings,” said a bank official Kishore Gowale who is celebrating in Mumbai while his wife Priyanka and their three tiny tots are enjoying the festival in Ratnagiri.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

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