Lord Ganesh begins ten-day earthly sojourn

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Mumbai, Sep 3 (UNI) The elephant-headed Lord Ganesh today began his ten-day earthly sojourn in thousands of Sarvajanik Mandals and lakhs of households in Maharashtra amidst religious fervour and traditional gaiety and a thick security cover.

Lord Ganesha, the most revered god in the state, was installed in 11,000 mandals and over two lakh households in the metropolis.

The city woke up to sweet sounds of bhajans and slipped into a devotional mood that connected to the deity.

Despite the threat perception after the serial bomb blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, thousands of 'Ganesh bhakts' took out processions to escort the Ganesh idols to their respective houses and mandals to the beat of drums and frenzied dancing.

Many people walked barefoot early morning to the famed Siddhivinayak temple at Prabhadevi in central Mumbai for thanksgiving.

Crowds were monitored through CCTVs at the biggest mandal--Lalbaghcha Raja--where devotees stood in queues as early as 0500 hrs on tuesday to be the first to have a glimpse of the giant Ganesh idol, bedecked with gold ornaments, worth over two crore. Eight large-size elephant cut-outs adorned the main entrance.

The treasurer of the mandal Raju Lanjawal said tea and breakfast would be served to the devotees. Over 1,500 volunteers are guiding the people and ensuring their safety with adequate police bandobast.

Home guards, NCC cadets and NSS students from colleges were assisting police to maintain law and order across the city. The traffic police have set up control rooms at five spots-- Girgaum chowpatty, Shivaji park beach, Bandra, Juhu chowpatty and Powai's Ganesh Ghat. Watch towers have been erected at 40 places to keep tab on traffic movement and maintain a vigil over the law and order situation.

The idols were installed in houses after an elaborate 'Aarti' and other rituals followed by a traditional lunch. Pandits were much in demand, with the devotees ringing them up on their mobiles, asking them to hurry up and start poojas at their respective places.

In Pune, the cultural capital of the state from where Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak initiated the Sarvajanik celebrations in 1894, idols were installed in 3,000 mandals and about a lakh homes.

Nasik, Kolhapur, Solapur, Jalgaon and Nagpur witnessed large-scale enthusiasm in heralding the ganesh festivities.

(Editors: pl pick up suitably from earlier series) UNI TEAM OBB SR JT HS1849

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