The 10-day festivities began with Hindus offering worship to the elephant headed god in homes and at 'pandals' which have come up on roads in markets and residential colonies.

In Hyderabad, which competes with Mumbai in terms of the scale of Ganesh celebrations, over 60,000 idols of different sizes have been installed.

According to Bhagyanagar Ganesh Utsav Samithi, 60,500 idols were installed in the state capital. The numbers are five to ten percent more compared to last year.

Clay idols were freely distributed by NGOs and environmental groups in some districts to promote environment-friendly idols. A festival for eco-friendly Ganesh was organized at Shankarpally near Hyderabad.

Taking a break from the ongoing protests over proposed bifurcation of the state, people in Rayalaseema and Andhra regions also celebrated the festival.

Police in Hyderabad and other communally sensitive towns in the state tightened the security to maintain peace. A tight vigil is being maintained in view of the alert sounded by the Centre in the wake of communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh.

In addition to 10,000 man strong city police force, the authorities have deployed paramilitary forces and called police forces from other districts to maintain law and order during the 10-day festival. Additional security arrangements were made at pandals in the sensitive areas in the old city of Hyderabad.

The festivities will end with a mammoth immersion procession on September 18. The annual festival brings the city to halt and police go on high alert to maintain peace and harmony. Like every year, the tallest statue was installed at Khairatabad in the heart of the city. The idol this year measures 59 feet.

Governor E S L Narasimhan and his wife were the first to offer puja at Khariatabad. Secunderabad MP Anjan Kumar Yadav was also present. Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy offered prayers in the evening.

A special 'laddu' weighing 4,000 kg was brought from Tapeswaram in East Godavari district and was kept into the hand of the idol at Khairatabad. Hundreds of devotees were present when the 'laddu' was kept in the hand with the help of a crane.

Mines and Geology Minister G. Aruna Kumar presented 'pattu vastralu' to Varasiddhi Vinayaka temple at Kanipakam in Chittoor district.


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