MUMBAI: Processions carrying idols of Lord Ganesh for immersion began winding their way towards rivers and lakes across Maharashtra Sunday morning, marking the culmination of the 11-day festival.
In big cities like Pune and Mumbai, processions carrying huge idols of the elephant-headed God on decorated trucks, accompanied by thousands of devotees and troupes of drummers, are expected to continue well past midnight.
As many as 11 people drowned in various parts of the state during immersion of Ganesh idols till 10 pm Sunday, said police.
As per the Director General of Police's Control Room, Raigad and Jalna reported three drownings each while Satara and Bhandara witnessed two drownings each and one person died in Pimpri Chinchwad.
Mumbai did not report any such incident till late evening Sunday, the control room official added.
The immersion processions were marred by unruly incidents in cities like Nashik, Pune and Kolhapur, mostly due to arguments over the use of sound amplifying systems, police said.
While public Ganesh mandals prefer to take the idols for immersion to sea shores or rivers, families which install smaller idols are increasingly conducting 'viasarjan' at homes in buckets of water.
With a view to avoid pollution of natural water bodies, many civic bodies have also set up artificial ponds for immersion.
In Mumbai, the famous Lalbaughcha Raja Ganpati, which attracts lakhs of devotees during the festival, was among the early starters for immersion at Girgaum Chowpatty.
The festival, which began on Ganesh Chaturthi on September 13, concluded Sunday on 'Anant Chaturdashi'.
Public celebration of Ganesh festival dates back over a century, when it was first encouraged by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in order to promote nationalist sentiment during the colonial rule.
In Mumbai, prime locations for immersion are Girgaum Chowpatty (beach), Juhu, Powai lake and Dadar Chowpatty.
Among the thousands who thronged the beachfront at Girgaum were 300 foreign nationals who watched the immersions from special enclosure after having booked tickets for it online through MTDC, said BJP corporator Atul shah.
In Pune, the top five Ganesh mandals set out for immersion in the morning.
Thousands of devotees thronged the streets in Pune as the five `Manache Ganpati' who traditionally take precedence in the procession were immersed Sunday.
Ganesh idols of Kasba, Tambdi Jogeshwari, Guruji Talim, Tulshibaug and Kesariwada Ganesh Mandals were immersed after grand processions by 7.15 PM.
In Nashik city of North Maharashtra, Ganesh mandals decided not to use hi-tech sound amplifying systems and 'gulal' powder (which is sprinkled during the procession) during the immersion.
The immersion procession of over 50 Ganesh mandals began in the morning from Wakadi Barav locality in Nashik.
It will culminate on the bank of the river Godavari.
Nashik police commissioner Ravinderkumar Singhal said the procession was expected to go on till midnight.
Besides, devotees in other districts of the state like Solapur, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Nanded, Jalgaon, Amravati, and Nagpur also bid aideu to their favourite God.
The Bombay High Court had Friday refused to lift the ban imposed by the state government on the use of hi-tech sound-amplifying systems such as DJ and Dolby sound during Ganpati immersion and the coming Navratri festival.
A mild lathicharge had to be resorted to after some people participating in these processions got into arguments with police when the latter stopped them from playing prohibited high-tech sound amplifying systems, said a Kolhapur police official.
Kolhapur mayor Shobha Bondre alleged that police personnel accompanying Kolhapur Superintendent of Police Abhinav Deshmukh spoke rudely to her while she was part of one of the processions in the city.
"The police personnel with Kolhapur SP Abhinav Deshmukh used very rude language.
This is unacceptable as I was participating in the procession as the mayor of the city," she alleged.
Similar incidents were also reported from Nashik and Pune and police had to resort to mild baton charge to control the situation, officials said.