The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government has requested people to celebrate the upcoming Navratri and Dussehra festivals in a low-key manner due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With a few days left for Navratri to begin, the state government advised cancellation of garba, dandiya and cultural programmes. In a 16-point circular issued ahead of Navratri, Durga Puja and Dusshera, the state home department said the festivals need to be celebrated in a “simple manner”. This year, Navratri starts on October 17, with Dusshera falling on October 25.
Instead of hosting cultural events that could attract crowds, the government has advised mandals to host health-related events or camps, such as blood donation drives. The government’s ‘Majhe Kutumb Majhi Jajbabdari (My Family My Responsibility)’ initiative should be publicised, apart from promoting precautionary measures that need to be taken against Covid-19, malaria and dengue, said the standard operating procedure. Keeping up with its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the state government has announced that there will be no garba, dandiya or any cultural events involving mass participation this year.
The nine-day long festival will start from October 17.In the guidelines issued by the state home department, festivals organisers and mandals have been asked to spread awareness on COVID-19, malaria, and dengue among other diseases. The mandals will also have to take permission from the civic body in advance. Along the lines of the restrictions imposed for Ganeshotsav, the height of the Durga idol has been capped at four ft for public pandals and two ft for private celebrations. The government has also urged the people to immerse idols either at homes or in artificial ponds created by housing societies or the civic body. Immersion at public places shall not be allowed in the view of maintaining social distancing. This year, not more than five people have been allowed inside the pandal. The state has also mandated that instead of idols made of plaster of Paris (PoP), organisers should opt for either clay or permanent idols.
“The traditional Dussehra event of burning the effigy of Raavan should be held observing social distancing norms, without spectators, and in a symbolic manner. Spectators should not be invited. Instead, organisers should arrange for live broadcast through social media platforms like Facebook,” the guidelines mention. On the ban on garba events, the organiser of Kora Kendra Dandiya, Ganesh Naidu, said: “We are ready to follow guidelines, but it would have been better had the government taken us into confidence. Just like IPL (Indian Premier League), we would have proposed broadcast of performances from the ground. At least it would have helped artists. But the current guidelines are not clear on that aspect.”
For Navratri and Durga Puja, the government has suggested worship of metal-based idols instead of the traditional ones made of Plaster of Paris or clay. In cases where metal-based idols are not used, residents have been urged to worship eco-friendly idols, which can be dissolved at home or artificial immersion tanks. The height of the idol has been capped at 4 feet for mandals and 2 feet for home worship. No procession should be held for either the arrival or visarjan of the idol. In containment zones, visarjan may not be allowed, the circular stated. The government stressed on avoiding crowding for bhajan, aarti and kirtan events. Wherever possible, using online means and cable networks to broadcast ‘Devi Darshan’ and other events has been recommended. For hosting public Navratri gatherings, mandals will be required to take permission from local administration or Municipal Corporation, said the circular. It added a mandap should be erected as per the policy formulated by the civic body or the local administration and orders issued by the Bombay High Court. For mandals, sanitisation and thermal screening has been made compulsory. They will also not be allowed to provide the services of food or drinks. At a time, no more than five volunteers should remain present in the mandal, the circular said.