Mumbai, Sept 15: Chants of "Ganapati Bappa Morya, Mangala Murti Morya" began resounding across Maharashtra at the start of the annual 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival on Saturday.
The festival marks Lord Ganesha's birthday on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the Bhadrapada month of the Hindu calendar. Millions of people are expected to take part.
Pandals or makeshift tents with Ganesh idols dot the Maharashtra landscape, and in Mumbai, the installation of these idols in households and in Mandals is being actively pursued.
At least 8,000 to 9,000 'Ganesh Mandals' have come up in the city.
Organizers are competing with each other for the decking up the idols.
For example, at a pandal in Mumbai"s Lal Baugh area, the idol has been decorated with nine kilograms of gold valued at 8.1 million rupees. Half of it was a necklace weighing four kilograms given by a devotee.
Rumours about the mafia sponsoring some of the pandal have been dismissed.
Organizers said they were tired of explaining that the pandal had nothing to do with the gangster.
"Chhota Rajan, a gangster, has nothing to do with this pandal. I have been associated with this pandal for past 30 years," said Satish Balgi, the Secretary of another Ganesh pandal.
Some 7,500 registered organisations hold celebrations in public places in the city, and some of them are over 50 years old.
This year, civic authorities in Mumbai have restricted the height of idols to seven foot or less. Last year, the tallest statues were between 25 to 28 feet.
Over 20,000 police personnel and 2,000 traffic officials have been deployed in the city as a security measure.
Religious bodies too have taken preventive steps to ensure no untoward incident takes place.
"In pandals, metal detectors, circuit TVs, cameras and other facilities have been arranged," said Pandurang Jadhav, the President of the Ganesh Festival Coordination Committee.
In addition to routine patrolling, police in Mumbai have also deployed sniffer dog squads and additional personnel to ensure that the festivities go off smoothly.
Ganesh Chaturthi for years was a personal and private affair. But at the turn of the century, freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak started using it as a platform for political propaganda against British colonial rule.
The festival is hugely popular in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Legend has it that Hindu Goddess Parvati had created Ganesh from a perfumed putty-like substance, used to remove dirt from her body in an ancient self-cleansing ritual, the equivalent of a modern bath.
Parvati's husband Lord Shiva, one of the three most powerful Gods in the Hindu pantheon, flew into rage and beheaded the young lad and barred his entry into Kailash, Shiva's snow-clad mountain abode.
When he later realised that the boy was created by his wife Parvati during his absence, Shiva brought him back to life by slaying an elephant and giving him the animal's head. Thus was created Ganesh, one of the best-loved of Indian gods.