Ganesh Chaturthi 2022: Indians start 10-day festival after two years of Covid

The festival is celebrated annually to honour Lord Ganesh, the god of wisdom

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Millions of Hindus in India joined the 10-day festivities to commemorate the birth of Lord Ganesh — the elephant-head deity ― with pomp and fervour after a two-year pandemic-enforced lull.

The festival is celebrated annually to honour Lord Ganesh, revered as the god of wisdom.

Huge marquees are set up across the country where an idol of the deity is installed on a high platform, ostentatiously decorated with flowers.

Hundreds of thousands of devotees visit these marquees to offer prayers and bring sweets and fruit as offerings to the deity.

Indian devotees transport an idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh in Mumbai, India, on August 31, 2022.  The Ganesh Chaturthi festival is a 10-day event celebrated all over India. EPA

Many devotees also place an idol at their homes for a minimum of one and a half days for intimate celebrations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday posted a picture of himself while offering prayers.

"Best wishes on Ganesh Chaturthi. May the blessings of Bhagwan Shri Ganesh always remain upon us," Mr Modi tweeted.

In western Maharashtra state, Ganesh Chaturthi is a major festival and is celebrated in the grandest manner, with elaborate street processions.

With Covid case numbers ebbing, the state government withdrew all Covid-19 restrictions to allow huge gatherings of devotees to celebrate the festival after two years of lukewarm festivities.

The height limits for the idols for the procession, reduced to 1.2 metres during the pandemic, were also withdrawn.

In the state capital, Mumbai, at Siddhivinayak Temple, one of the most famous Ganesh temples in the country, hundreds of devotees gathered to witness the prayers and seek blessings early on Wednesday morning.

At another popular pavilion, a 4.2m idol of Lalbaughcha Raja, loosely translated to Red Garden’s King, the most famous Ganesh idol in the city, was unveiled.

A devotee offers prayers to the Hindu god Ganesh on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, in Mumbai, India, August 31, 2022. EPA

The pavilion receives more than two million devotees every day during the festival, according to Balasaheb Kamble, the president of the Lalbaugcha Raja committee that has been organising the festival since 1934.

Large groups of devotees from faraway places camped outside on a narrow footpath, a kilometre from the pavilion, in hope of catching the first glimpse of the idol on Wednesday.

“We came from Ratnagiri and we have been camping outside the pavilion for the last four days. We come here every year,” Nilesh Bagwadh told a local newspaper.

The organisers said that close-circuit cameras were installed at the site for security reasons and more than 4,000 volunteers were deployed to manage the large gathering.

At Chennai in southern Tamil Nadu, devotees flocked to a famous temple, known as Lakhsmi Visa Ganpathi temple, with the hopes of travelling abroad.

The temple is famous among visa-seekers who believe praying to the God will fulfil their dream of obtaining a visa.

In northern Uttar Pradesh, where the festivities have picked up with the migration of the community from Maharashtra, several small-scale pavilions have been erected in residential neighbourhoods.

“It feels wonderful to be able to celebrate the festival like this after two years … the real essence of celebrating any festival is in the community gathering, with your family and friends,” Rekha Gupta, a resident of Noida, a city outside the capital New Delhi, told The National.

Updated: August 31, 2022, 11:46 AM