Ganesh festival is being celebrated with much fervour and fanfare across the city. But, numbers reveal that the devotees thronging the most popular deity in the city Lalbaugcha Raja in Parel has dipped. Figures show a 50 per cent drop in the number of devotees that flock to the mandal to seek blessings from the lord.
The mill ground, which organisers had acquired to accommodate over 10 lakh devotees who visit the mandal per day, is comparatively emptier this year, as fewer people are thronging for darshan. So much so, that the queues for the darshan which took 18 to 20 hours in the past is now taking merely four hours.
Volunteers attributed the low footfalls to the fact that an increasing number of people are visiting mandals closer to their homes rather than travelling to Parel and then standing in lines for hours. One volunteer added that the line for the Mukhdarshan, which took four hours in the past, is now taking just about an hour.
Police officials deployed for bandobast duty at the mandal said that there were fewer devotees this year. Ashok B, a senior inspector, said, “This year the crowds seem to be lesser than those in the past. I have been here for bandobast duty for the last three years and I have never witnessed such few people in the first five days. This year, devotees mostly seem to be out of towners, who are not familiar with the city.”
A managing committee member of the Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav mandal said, “This year as of now it is very peaceful as we have witnessed almost 50 per cent fewer devotees. The grounds for the devotees standing in line are empty. The devotees standing in Navasachi line are able to touch the feet of Bappa in four hours unlike last year where it took them 18 hours.”
When MiD DAY asked a dignitary the reason for the fewer devotees, he rubbished the claims and said that the new arrangements made by the mandal had allowed smooth functioning and a shorter wait in lines.
Ashok Pawar, president of Lalbaugcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal, said, “This is an achievement for us. Devotees who who have come to thank bappa as their navas or mannats were fulfilled did not have to take the long route and walk 300 metres more, hence reducing the crowds at the queue. Slowly, the crowds will increase at the pandal.”