Lalbaugcha Raja Chooses Not to be a Super-Spreader. Hope Other Ganesh Mandal Organisers Are Listening


Lalbaugcha Raja Chooses Not to be a Super-Spreader. Hope Other Ganesh Mandal Organisers Are Listening

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

A week after the Odisha administration threw caution to the wind by petitioning the Supreme Court to hold the Jagannath Rath Yatra in Puri in the middle of the pandemic, the organisers of Mumbai’s biggest Ganesh festival – Lalbaugcha Raja – have decided to set an example.

For the first time in its nearly 90-year history, the committee has said that it will not be putting an idol on display during this year’s Ganesh Chaturthi, in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. Instead, the organisers have said, they would celebrate the two weeks as a “health festival”, earning them the praise of large sections of social media.

“In those 10 days, we will organise a blood donation camp and an awareness camp to promote plasma donation,” the secretary of the Lalbaug Mandal, Sudhir Salvi, said. “We are also donating ₹25 lakh to the Chief Minister’s Fund to help fight the pandemic.”

Earlier, the organisers of the Mumbaicha Raja Mandal, which also draws large crowds every year, announced that they will make a miniature version of the idol, and immerse it in an artificial pond instead of in the sea this year, reports said.

All these precautions had some on Twitter wishing that the organisers of the Ganesh Chaturthi were also put in charge of the rath yatra in Puri last week, which was held without public participation, but also seemingly without social-distancing norms. Now at least 12 have tested positive for the coronavirus.

A few also said that the decision to hold an “Arogya Utsav” instead of the usual processions would be a fitting tribute to Lord Ganesh.

Earlier, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had urged crowds to not gather for this year’s Ganesh Chaturthi, and requested pandals to limit the height of idols to a maximum of four feet. “Devotion is more important than the height of the idol,” he had said.

With the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, especially in the urban areas of Mumbai and Pune, decisions like this can save hundreds of lives. By deciding to avoid grand Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations this year, the Lalbaughcha Raja organisers seem to be showing everyone else the way.