For four communities in the city, it’s a time to feast, worship and make merry. Eid, Ganesh Chaturthi, the first day of the Bandra Fair and the last day of Paryushan are converging this weekend.
The Ganesh festival will start on Saturday, while the Mount Mary Fair will commence on Sunday and will continue for eight days.
The Jains will make their way to derasars (temples) on Saturday for the final day of Paryushan. The festival marks the end of eight holy days of mandatory fasting and is dedicated to praying for the repentance of one’s sins.
At the time of going to press, Eid had not been declared. If it’s not declared on Friday, it will be celebrated on Saturday.
A time of multiple festivals also means inter-community bonding. The Mount Mary Basilica and Ganesh mandals such as Lalbaugcha Raja have devotees from all faiths. At Lalbaug, people throng to see the idol and pay their respects, while the Bandra Fair draws the faithful as well as those looking to enjoy rides, shopping and food.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has budgeted Rs 8 crore for preparations for the Ganesh festival, which ends on September 22. Last year, it spent Rs 7 crore on immersion facilities, watchtowers, sanitation, etc.
It has marked 60 spots and is building 19 artificial ponds for immersion of the idols.
The BMC will deploy 214 lifeguards and has asked the navy to help in case of emergencies.
The beaches at Girgaum, Juhu, Dadar and Marve are the main immersion spots. Facilities such as mobile toilets and searchlights are being put in place for devotees’ convenience and to ensure their safety, especially on the last day when the maximum number of idols are immersed and lakhs of devotees throng the beaches.
In addition, 59 motorboats, first aid centres, ambulances and doctors will be on standby.
Last year, around 1.87 lakh idols were immersed. This year, the number is expected to be higher.
“Help has also been sought from non-governmental organisations too,” said Municipal Commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya. He added that waste generated from the immersions would be segregated and composted to generate organic manure.
At Powai lake, the BMC is setting up safety nets at the spot where a crocodile attack was reported recently.
The BMC had to abandon its proposed ban on plaster of Paris idols, allowing only ones made of clay, after opposition from mandals. “We can only recommend that citizens use clay idols. Plaster of Paris idols are harmful to the environment,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Aseem Gupta.
The police have not effected any traffic diversions for the next three days. They are also gearing up to handle any protests against the proposed burning of the Quran by a pastor in Florida on September 11. Security has been provided to all churches.
Nandkumar Chougale, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), traffic, said road restrictions would be in place on the fifth, sixth, seventh and 12th days of the Ganesh festival.
DCP (Operations) Rajkumar Vhatkar said 3,000 policemen from the reserves have been called to assist 16,000 policemen in the security arrangements. Sixteen companies of the State Reserve Police Force are also on duty.
Inputs by Bhavika Jain, Debasish Panigrahi and Aarefa Johari