In 2020, the first year that Ganesh festival was celebrated in the time of Covid-19, the organisers of Lalbaugcha Raja had decided they would rather not have a Ganpati idol than set up one that is only four-ft tall. They instead decided to spread awareness about coronavirus.
It was the first time in the history of the famous Ganpati pandal that there was no idol.
This year, the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal has relented. A four-ft idol has been set up at the pandal instead of the regular 14-ft one. It will be unveiled at 11 am on Friday.
In keeping with BMC guidelines that no one would be allowed inside a pandal, arrangements have been made to provide 24/7 online darshan from 11 am on Friday – day 1 of the 10-day festival. Alternate arrangements for live-streaming on social have also been made just in case the server crashes.
“In 2019, over 4.23 crore people availed online darshan. As this year physical darshan is not allowed, we are expecting a rise in the numbers. Our website can take a load of maximum of 1 lakh viewers at one time. So, we have made alternate arrangements on Facebook and You Tube… some private players have also been given the rights to live stream the proceedings,” said Bharat Bhujbal, in charge of the mandal’s web-related activities.
The festival will begin at Lalbaugcha Raja with a ceremonial puja at 10.30 am on Friday. Within half-an-hour, the 24/7 live coverage will begin. It will end on September 19.
“Due to the pandemic, no mukh darshan will be allowed this year. So, we earnestly request all devotees to stay at home, stay safe and take darshan of our dear Raja on our website http://www.lalbaugcharaja.com or on our social media handles,” said Sudhir Salvi, secretary of the mandal.
“There will be live telecast of two pujas daily between 12.30 pm to 1.30 pm and again between 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm. We have also tied up with an online retailer to provide laddoos as prasad. The prasad is being made in our mandal and will be delivered at homes in MMR and Pune. Already 70,000 people have booked the prasad since Wednesday night,” he added.
A day ahead of the festival, the entire market area and streets in and around Lalbaug was bustling with huge crowds on Thursday. Trade activities were in full swing throughout the day. The police presence was minimal. Many people were seen shopping for sweets, dry fruits, snacks, decorative materials, fruits, flowers, clothes and ornaments.
The idol will be taken for immersion on September 19 at Girgaon beach. Unlike every year, there will be no procession. “This year, the idol will be carried on a truck by only 10 people,” said Salvi.
Devotees who make donations every year at the mandal have been given an option of transferring the money online.
For 30 years until last year, a 14-ft idol of the Raja was set up at the mandal. Santosh Kambli, the artist’s family who has made idols for the mandal from the start, on Thursday said it was heart breaking when the decision was taken not to make an idol last year.
“My 80-year-old father, Ratnakar Madhusudan Kambli, has been making the eyes of the idol for decades now, including this year. I took it as a challenge to create the four-ft idol and tried my best to give it the same look and charm. But all will agree that size of the idol does not matter, its our devotion that matters.”