The 11-day Ganesh festival began in Hyderabad on Sunday with fanfare and religious fervour amid tight security arrangements.
Thousands of idols of the elephant-headed Lord Ganesh in different avatars, sizes and shapes were installed in Hyderabad, its twin city Secunderabad and outskirts.
Slogans of 'Ganpati Bappa Morya' and 'Ganesh Maharaj ki Jai' rent the air as devotees installed huge idols in neighbourhoods, commercial areas and public places even as police kept a tight vigil following intelligence reports that subversive elements could create trouble during the festivities.
A last-minute rush was seen at Dhoolpet, where idols worth millions of rupees are sold every year. Despite sharp increase in the prices of idols made of plaster of Paris, the traders made a brisk business. The price ranged between Rs 300 and Rs 20,000 depending on the size of the idols.
Like in the past, businessmen and residents' associations vied with each other in installing idols made with innovative designs. The attractive idols range include those made from dry fruits, butter, icing sugar and the roles the lord of wisdom donned range from a solider to a crusader against corruption.
More than 15,000 huge idols have been installed in Hyderabad, which is second only to Mumbai in organising the festival on a massive scale. The idols were placed on decorated platforms and inside tents known as 'Ganesh pandals'.
As in the past, the tallest idol has been installed at Khairatabad in the heart of Hyderabad. The 40-foot tall idol is attracting thousands of devotees from all over the state, as it is believed that prayers offered here are answered.
Massive security arrangements have been made for the festival, which ends on September 6, when the idols are immersed in the Hussain Sagar Lake in the heart of the city and dozens of other lakes.
The 'Nimmajanam' or immersion in the Hussain Sagar will be taking place under strict monitoring by state authorities as the Andhra Pradesh High Court has issued orders to minimise pollution.
About 22,000 policemen have been deployed in the city for the festival. Additional security arrangements will be in place for the immersion procession, which is expected to be attended by a million people and passes through the communally sensitive walled quarters.
Since the city has witnessed many communal clashes during this festival season in the past, authorities have requisitioned forces from other parts of the state as well as from central agencies to maintain law and order.