Ganeshotsav is one of the biggest festivals of Maharashtra. The grandeur and the magnanimity of the festival are not only visible from the pandals, the serpentine queues, but also from the fact that scores of devotees welcome Lord Ganesha into their homes and worship his idol. However, this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the festival will be celebrated in a muted manner.

Popular pandals like Mumbai's famous Lal Baughcha Raja have already decided to cancel the celebrations this year, and there have been other big pandals which have followed the same route. With less than a month left for Ganesh Chaturthi 2020, LatestLY takes a look at the inhibitions in the minds of devotees to welcome Ganpati into their houses and how the online, as well as local idol sellers, are turning this adversity into an opportunity. When is Ganesh Chaturthi in 2020? Know The Beginning Date of The 10-Day Festival of Ganeshotsav In Maharashtra This Year.

Devotees Sceptical About Celebrations

Lord Ganesha is also known as Vighnaharta because devotees worship him as the remover of all obstacles and the God of a new beginning. People welcome Ganesha with love, devotion and happiness. However, this year, the mood in the middle of the pandemic is different. Several families have decided not to celebrate Ganpati at home. There are few, who are thinking instead of opting for idols, to perform the puja on 'supari' and 'paan' and afterwards visit the Ganesh Temple near their homes and immerse the supari.

Performing a puja is an elaborate affair and several people are involved in it, from getting the idol, planning the decorations, making prasad to the pandit who does the Ganesh Sthapna. The only reason the above looks like a challenge this year is because of the restrictions that have been placed amid the coronavirus induced lockdown in the state. Lalbaughcha Raja Cancels Ganeshotsav 2020 Celebrations: Here's How Chinchpokalicha Chintamani, Ganesh Gallicha Raja and Others Plan to Ring in Ganesh Chaturthi Festival in Mumbai Amid Coronavirus Pandemic in India.

Murtikars Struggle With Low Demand & Other Challenges

Due to the pandemic and the low interest among the customers, the idol makers are struggling ahead of the festival. One of the main challenges is the lack of space and the sculptors have not been allowed to build idols in make-shift tents on the streets. Some of the other challenges include a shortage of labour and sourcing raw material due to the lockdown. As a result of this, they have been able to take only limited orders this year.

Online Players Make Aggressive Push

This year, the focus is on eco-friendly idols and several online players are marketing heavily by throwing open a variety of options in front of the customers. Online player Mypoojabox is not only selling Ganesh idols but has also offered customers an option to select decoration material, puja samagri and idol accessories at the time of booking the idol. Another player Eco Ganesha will also offer pandit facilities, where they will be uploading a video of the Ganesh Sthapna puja on their website.

Ganesh idols are available in several options like mati, clay, river clay, paper mache, pond clay and terracotta. The best part about these eco-friendly idols is that the immersion can be easily done at home. Another popular online player Tree Ganesha says 'Bring Home an Eco-friendly murti that turns into a tree after the visarjan'.

Talking about the challenges which customers are facing while booking idols online, Prasant Marne, Marketing Head at MyEcoGanesh, said, "It has been a tradition for people to come with their family to select the idol, there is a lot of emotion attached to it. However, this year as the option is not available in most places, people miss viewing the idol before making their booking."

"There has been a lot of enquiry regarding the actual colour and height of the idol which they have booked in comparison to the image that is displayed on the website. Few of our clients are extremely concerned about how the delivery of their idols would be done," he added. In order to ensure the smooth delivery, MyEcoGanesh will hand-deliver the idols and there is no courier agency involved in between.

Local Vendors Tweak Their Approach

Understanding the current scenario, where it is difficult for a customer to physically go and select the Ganesh idol, the local vendors who used to otherwise display their work in the make-shift tents on the roads, have been contacting their previous customers. From sharing the idol catalogue on WhatsApp to being in constant touch with them in helping them select the idol of their choice, the local vendors are also giving a neck-and-neck fight to the online players.

Panditji Goes Online

Keeping in mind the restrictions which several housing societies have in place with respect to allowing the entry of outsiders, the purohits this year are preferring the digital route for performing Ganesh puja.

Pandit Dhiren of Santacruz area will be sharing two pre-recorded videos with his clients. One will be about the arrangements that need to be made before the puja and the second one will be on how the puja will be performed. "This will help the customers to view it as per their convenience and they will not have to rely on Zoom or WhatsApp call and can devote their attention in performing the puja." The cost for this service is Rs 2,100.

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Pandit Ashish of Mulund area is offering both the digital service as well as going personally go to his client's house to perform the puja. Talking about his online puja plan, he shared, "As per the muhurat and the time slot, the puja would be performed via WhatsApp call. The duration of the puja will be 45-minutes." The cost of both his services is Rs 3,100.

Dinesh Acharya, however, doesn't believe in performing puja online and, therefore, he is not offering any digital service even if there is a demand. The cost of his service to perform the puja at his clients' houses will range from Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,500.

Maharashtra tops the coronavirus charts and continues to be one of the worst-hit states in India. Despite the several challenges this year, right from the idol seller to the panditji, everyone is using the online platform to help devotees welcome Lord Ganesha to their homes.

At a time when India is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, devotees, while keeping their faith in Ganesha intact, are aware of the situation and are taking all possible precautions that they can to celebrate the festival.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Aug 06, 2020 05:31 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website