"After much deliberation and debating, we have decided to enforce a strict dress code for the devotees visiting Andhericha Raja for a darshan," said Uday Salian, spokesperson for the Andhericha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, Monday.
It has become the first mandal (association) in the state to implement a dress code for devotees since the public festival was started by freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1894.
"Any person above the age of 13, male or female, must come properly attired or he or she will be denied entry by our security personnel and mandal volunteers," Salian told IANS.
He explained that in the past few years many devotees came dressed in outrageous, offensive and even downright unacceptable clothes.
"Besides insulting the solemnity of the celebrations, they end up causing distractions and embarrass other devotees," he said.
Local devotees have welcomed the dress code, saying that the young devotees troop in for 'darshan' virtually in picnic attires which hurt the sentiments of others.
The Andheri Mandal, which attracts up to two million devotees from all over India, including top celebrities from diverse fields, till Sankashthi day when the idol is taken for immersion, has other surprises up its sleeve this year.
In order to make the celebrations more eco-friendly, the mandal has discarded plastic bags and ordered 200,000 small cloth bags to disburse 'prasad'.
Salian said the mandal had tied up with Majestic Publishers to hold a book fair during the Ganeshotsav and sell books on discount. "This is to inculcate reading habit among our young generations which are hooked to television, internet and mobiles," he said.
On Sep 26, the mandal would organise a blood donation camp.
Andhericha Raja is the only mandal in the city which will not immerse its 8.5-foot-tall Lord Ganesh idol on Anant Chaturdashi day Sep 29.
Instead, it will be immersed with traditional pomp and gaiety on Sankashthi day, which falls Oct 3 this year, nearly a week after Ganeshotsav celebrations end all over the state.
Explaining the reasons behind this, Salian said that in 1976 the Golden Tobacco Co. Ltd. in Vile Parle had shut down, leaving thousands of people jobless and virtually starved.
"Some of its employees, who lived in this area, had vowed that year (1976) that if their company re-opened soon, they would worship Andhericha Raja for a few more days during the festival and immerse it on Sankashthi day," he said.
Their wish was fulfilled and since the past 35 years, Andhericha Raja bids adieu to his devotees only on Sankashthi day, he said.