Mumbai: Seated on a grand throne in South Mumbai market for the last 93 years, Lord Ganesha — popularly known as Lalbaugcha Raja or King of Lalbaug — will not be seen this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a blood and plasma donation camp will be set up in the area to celebrate Ganeshotsav as health festival.

The decision was taken by Mumbai’s Lalbaugcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal in wake of the increasing Covid-19 cases, especially in Maharashtra where the tally has hit 1,74,761 with the financial capital being the biggest contributor.

The board has decided to hold a health camp this year for 11 days. This year’s Ganeshotsav idol installation and immersion ceremony will be celebrated as a health festival from Ganesh Chaturthi to Anant Chaturdashi, the mandal said.

It will be replaced by a small idol of around 3-4 feet for the traditional ‘puja’ and other ceremonies.

Every year, millions of devotees, including celebrities, visit the famed pandal of Lalbaughcha Raja where over a 15-feet-tall idol of Lord Ganesha is set up. The festival witnesses donations in crores, including gold and silver ornaments being offered to the ‘King of Lalbaug’.

During Ganeshotsav, the pandal sees 80,000 to 1 lakh people in a day.

Last month, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had called for low-key Ganpati celebrations this year in view of Covid-19, and urged mandals to undertake social welfare programmes. The 10-day festival begins on August 22.

Thackeray, who held a review meeting, said the threat of coronavirus was not over, so it would not be possible to celebrate the festival with usual grandeur. He said there should be no crowding or processions. However, local reports said that the state government may grant special permission to mandals like Lalbaugcha Raja and GSB King’s Circle to keep large idols, like every year, as they are also puja moortis. But they will have to sign an undertaking on regulating darshan, not permitting large crowds and following norms like social distancing.


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