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Cover-up diktat to Ganesh devotees
- Andheri puja dress code: no shorts, please

Mumbai, Sept. 17: Vasant Dhoble may have hung up his boots as Mumbai’s moral cop but the organisers of a prominent Ganesh puja seem to have stepped into his shoes.

Visitors in “inappropriate clothing” will be denied entry into Andhericha Raja, located in upscale Andheri, in the Ganesh puja starting on Wednesday.

“Any person above 13, male or female, must come properly attired or he or she will be denied entry,” Uday Salian, spokesperson for Andhericha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, which organises the puja, said.

To those in knots over what to wear, Salian offered a clarification: “By inappropriate, we mean shorts, mini-skirts, halter-necks and other clothes that look vulgar.”

A team of volunteers will keep a close watch on the hemlines and “evaluate who needs to cover up”, Salian said.

The move comes days after the transfer of assistant police commissioner Dhoble, who shot into spotlight with his raids on city pubs that stayed open late into the night.

Ganesh pujas in Mumbai are Bengal’s equivalent of Durga Puja and the young are known to flaunt the latest fashion trends during the 11-day festival.

But Salian suggested model Poonam Pandey showed off far too much last year and prompted the organisers to issue the dress diktat.

Poonam landed at the pandal in hot pants and the crowd “went wild appreciating her beauty”, Salian said. “Ganeshotsav is a religious festival and pious devotees were appalled. We had a tough time.”

But Salian claimed Poonam’s was by no means an isolated case. “Not just Poonam Pandey, youngsters have been wearing the most outrageous and vulgar clothes over the last few years. We needed to stop this to maintain the festival’s sanctity. We have decided on the dress code after much deliberation and debating.”

But many weren’t convinced. The Bruhanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, the umbrella body of all Ganesh pujas in the city, frowned on the move. “They should have consulted us before announcing the decision as it will have a ripple-effect. The scriptures do not dictate a dress code,” said Samiti president Naresh Dahibawkar.

Stung by the criticism, Salian declared today said: “We cannot turn back devotees from Ganpati’s door. So we decided to make arrangements for those who… do not know about the ban. There will be changing rooms for men and women. We will also provide them with clothes to cover themselves up decently.”

A few other organisers backed the code. “We support the move in principle and are discussing whether or not to implement a dress code for our mandal,” said Suresh Kashikar, joint secretary of Worlicha Raja Ganesh Mandal in Worli.

Mumbai old-timers couldn’t recall the last time a Ganesh puja clamped dress codes since the festival was started by freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1894.