(Eds: Adding details, changing slug) Chennai, Aug 22 (PTI) Vinayaka Chaturthi was celebrated across Tamil Nadu with usual fervour on Saturday, although the trademark large idols of the elephant God were missing this year in lines with a government directive in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Coimbatore, nine VHP activists were detained for trying to defy the ban and install the idols in public places.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami held prayers at his residence in his native Salem, strictly following COVID-19 protocols--social distancing and wearing mask-- with his family.
The Tamil Nadu government had earlier banned installation of large Ganesha idols in public places in the state besides public worship and processions before the immersion of the idols in water bodies.
The government had appealed to the people to confine the celebrations to their homes.
On Saturday, citizens turned up in good numbers to buy clay idols of the Lord to conduct puja at homes and in some places were seen compromising on social distancing norms.
For their part, vendors who put up temporary stalls to sell the images and flowers solicited customers, making the latter temporarily forget about the dreaded Coronavirus.
Most temples were out of bounds for devotees.
Ahead of the festival, the Hindu Munnani, which is instrumental in organising the Ganesh Chaturthi festival and immersion, had appealed to the people to celebrate the Pillaiyar (as the Lord is known) Chaturthi safely due to the pandemic.
'We didn't want a procession this time owing to the spike in coronavirus cases in Tamil Nadu and want the people to be safe,' A T Elangovan, president, Hindu Munnani, Chennai, told PTI.
The organisation's state president Kadeswara C Subramaniam had announced that idols of Lord Ganesh will be installed in private places, houses and temples on Saturday and they will be immersed this evening by the outfit's members 'without involving the public and by upholding the social distancing norms.' Although the Hindu Munnani announced it would install about 1.5 lakh idols of Lord Ganesh, the number is likely to be lower, a senior functionary said.
'Owing to COVID-19 restrictions, our organisation had announced earlier that there will be no public meetings or processions,' Elangovan said.
Hailing the Madras High Court's Friday order, permitting installation of the idols by individuals, he said this reflected the prevailing sentiments in the Hindu Munnani.
Permitting installation of Ganesha idols and subsequent immersion in water bodies during the Ganesha Chaturthi festival by individuals, the Madras High Court had upheld the state government order banning processions for the occasion.
A division bench of Justices M M Sundresh and R Hemalatha observed that people cannot be prohibited from doing their religious duties, which are age-old practices.
Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Chief Minister K Palaniswami greeted people on the occasion.
Meanwhile, at the Tamil Nadu BJP headquarters Kamalalayam, a Ganesha idol displaying the party-led Central government's various achievements, including an apparent reference to the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir last year, was installed.
It also had a replica of a Rafale fighter jet.
Led by state unit chief L Murugan, BJP functionaries offered prayers there.
In Coimbatore, nine VHP activists were detained for trying to defy the ban and installing Ganesh idols at different locations in the city, police said.
Though a majority of pro-Hindu outfits had announced they would celebrate Vinayaga Chathurthi by installing the idols in public, they preferred to keep the idols on temple premises and private places to celebrate the festival.
However, two VHP activists who attempted to install the idols were arrested in Chinnavedampatti and one idol seized.
Similarly, another idol for installation was seized at Veeriyampalayam, police said.
In total nine VHP men were arrested for trying to install idols in defiance of the ban, even as 2,500 police personnel were deployed to keep s strict vigil on the violators in and around the city.
Volunteers of the Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK) preferred to celebrate the festival by installing the idols in bakeries and tea shops belonging to the workers.
Members of pro-Hindu outfits like Hindu Munnani and HMK installed 1,500 Ganesha idols in temples and private places at nearby Tirupur, strictly following the lock down guidelines.
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