The annual 10-day Gowri-Ganesh festival culminated on Wednesday with a grand cultural extravaganza, which saw a welcome confluence of Kannada and Marathi cultures and thousands of people from near and afar in attendance.

The procession was inaugurated with ceremonial puja by Satish L. Jarkiholi, Excise Minister and district in-charge; Prakash Hukkeri, Sugar and Muzrai Minister; Suresh Angadi, MP; Feroz Sait and Sanjay B. Patil, MLAs; Deputy Commissioner N. Jayaram and SP Chandragupta, at Hutatma Chowk. The inauguration was delayed by two hours and took place at 4 p.m.

Over 200 Ganesh idols, some as tall as 28 feet, each capturing the deity’s different incarnations, were part of the night-long procession. Immersion was performed at the Fort Lake, Kapileshwar tank, and open wells in Shivaji garden and Anagol. The last immersion will take place on Thursday morning.

It was for the first time that this annual festival witnessed participation of Kannada folk artists from the district and other parts of the State along with music bands and bhajan artists belonging to the Marathi community here. The State government had sanctioned Rs. 1 crore for the festivities.

However, Sambhaji L. Patil, MLA and Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti leader, avoided participating in the puja to protest against the involvement of cultural troupes from outside the district. He had met Mr. Jayaram on Tuesday and threatened to protest if cultural troupes from outside the district were involved in the immersion procession.

Mr. Jayaram told presspersons earlier during the day that Mr. Patil could not dictate terms to the government. All had equal right to participate. The government had provided Rs. 1 crore, which was used to organise cultural programmes featuring Kannada and Marathi artists as well as those from the Urdu communities.

A special laser show and fireworks display was organised later in the evening at Fort lake, for which the district administration spent nearly Rs. 10 lakh. The display received some flak from environmentalists, who described it as a “lavish and wasteful expenditure.”

The police had made tight security arrangements and deployed over 4,000 personnel, including those from Border Security Force and Rapid Action Force, in addition to District Armed Reserve Police and Karnataka State Reserve Police. Around 33 CCTV cameras were installed at different points along the procession route to check untoward incidents.

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