Hyderabad: For the first time in 40 years, the immensely popular centralised immersion procession of Lord Ganesha, one of the biggest annual events of the city, will not be held this year, courtesy the Covid-19 pandemic.

The immersion procession caps the 11-day Ganesh festivities across the State capital, and for decades, has started from Balapur, passing through Chandrayangutta, Aliabad, via the Charminar, through Afzalgunj, MJ Market and Abids before reaching Liberty and heading towards Tank Bund and Hussain Sagar.

The procession, which has got only bigger and more colourful each year, first began in 1980. The Bhagyanagar Ganesh Utsav Samithi, stating that there would be no centralised procession this year, said the Ganesh festivities would be from August 22 to September 1 (Anantha Chaturdashi Day), but on a low key.

Appealing to pandal organisers to keep the celebrations to a minimum, the samithi also asked them to immerse idols at lakes or rivulets in their vicinity. Urging organisers to ensure physical distancing between devotees at pandals, besides mandatory use of masks and sanitisers, it had specifically asked them not to set up gigantic idols and instead go for small idols.

All pandal organisers must follow the Covid-19 guidelines issued by the State and Central governments. More importantly, on the immersion day, only four to five persons should participate to ensure physical distancing, samithi secretary R Shashidhar said.

Pandal organisers had also been asked to perform Harathi at 7 pm daily and pray to the Lord of Beginnings to save society from the coronavirus and shower his blessings, utsav samithi general secretary Bhagwanth Rao, said, adding that the idea was to ensure there was no spread of the virus during the festivities.

Every year, over one lakh Ganesh idols are set up by colony associations, youth associations and others in the city and close to 70,000 idols are immersed in Hussain Sagar during the centralised immersion procession.

The Covid-19 pandemic has already impacted the festival plans of two popular Ganesh Utsav Samithis in the city.

While the Balapur Ganesh Utsav Samithi announced last week that the annual practice of auctioning the famous ‘Balapur Laddu’ would not be held this year, the Khairatabad Ganesh Utsav Committee announced earlier that the famous Khairatabad Ganesh idol was likely to be only 27-ft tall this year, and made of clay, modelled on Dhanwantari, the deity born with ambrosia in one hand and Ayurveda in the other hand. And online darshan would be permitted.

This is after initial plans of a 61-foot idol. Apart from the size, another major deviation from a decades-old practice will be that the idol will not be immersed in Hussain Sagar. Instead, it will be dissolved at the site by performing Abhishekham with different ingredients like milk.

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