VISAKHAPATNAM: What is supposed to be a merry festival with nine days of music and celebrations, is increasingly worsening with Ganesh pandals resorting to blasting music at all hours. Making matters worse, most pandals are playing lewd music including item songs and English numbers with suggestive lyrics, robbing Vinayaka Chaturthi of its sanctity.
The nine-day Ganesh Utsav has kick-started on last Thursday on a grand note in Visakhapatnam city. Though the number of pandals have come down drastically when compared to previous years, different sections of the society, especially youth have organised the celebrations on a large scale. While loudspeakers and music systems are nothing new at these pandals, what has become a nuisance for residents in many localities is the sound level and the quality of music being played by the organisers. Lewd music and film dance programmes are making the situation unbearable for residents.
“Two-three Ganesh pandals have been put up on the same street and all of them demanded money for the festivities. I have obliged them as I am a religious man. But it hurts to see them playing film music at such a holy place,” lamented ChV Krishna Murthy, a resident of Seethammadhara. He alleged that apart from playing the music at huge decibel levels, the pandal organisers were allowing youngsters to play item songs and even English pop music. “Worst thing was that when I went to ask them to stop playing such music, they asked me to leave,” he said.
A shopkeeper from Balayya Sastry Layout complained: “There’s one pandal on the left and one on the right and both of them are playing loud music, right from around 6.30 am to 10 pm and sometimes even beyond that. The police station is right here and still these people are openly flouting the rules. The loud music is nerve-wracking and the people of this area are living a nightmare. They are testing our patience, and I for one can’t wait for Nimajjanam and the end of this nuisance.”
Immersion processions on the other hand are also causing major traffic snarls with drunk revellers stopping every few metres and breaking into dances in the middle of the road, while music continues to blare from speakers. People are resorting to vulgar dances, putting the public to much inconvenience.
Vexed with the manner in which the festival is being celebrated, the members of the Uttarandhra Sadhu Parishad (USP) staged a protest in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue near the GVMC office in the city recently. Equalling the unconventional ways of celebrating the nine-day festivities to activities of anti-social elements, the USP members expressed concern that the organisers were defaming the traditional rituals and sanctity.
Celebrating Vinayaka Chaturthi in the streets in a North Indian culture and it got popularised in Vizag only during the last decade.
“People in rural areas are exposed to the culture of Jataras. But it appears the practice has dangerously seeped into the Ganesh Utsav celebrations, particularly in Vizag city,” pointed out C Naresh Kumar, a private college lecturer and resident of Peda Waltair. He said that cities like Mumbai and Hyderabad where Ganesh Utsav is organised in a large scale, they have self regulation bodies comprising the Ganesh Pandal organisers to deal with such activities.
ADCP (special branch) PV Ravi Kumar said that along with the permission given to set up the Ganesh pandals, permission were given for loud speakers. However, the Ganesh Pandal organisers have to seek permission from the local police station to organise any cultural programmes like dance and even Harikatha. “But no obscene activities will be allowed. If there are any problems, people can approach the nearest police station to lodge their complaint and we would react at the earliest,” he added.
Interestingly, religious organisations are found to be neither objecting the questionable method of celebrating the festival, nor have initiated any steps to stop revelry from crossing the limits.