Muslim devotees offer namaz on the eve of Ramzan, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)
Muslim devotees offer namaz on the eve of Ramzan, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)

Covid-19 fear takes sheen out of Navratri, Ramzan festivities in Delhi

  • During Ramzan, Muslims fast for a month between sunrise and sunset and perform special night prayers. The month culminates in the festival of Eid-ul fitr.
By Ashish Mishra, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON APR 14, 2021 12:51 AM IST

Navratri and Ramzan, during which devotees observe fasts and participate in special prayers, began on Tuesday with several places of worship in Delhi enforcing Covid-19 protocols at a time when the Capital is going through its worst phase of the pandemic.

The city on Tuesday reported 13,468 cases, the highest ever single-day spike, and 81 people died of the infection, according to the Delhi government’s daily health bulletin.

At Kalkaji Mandir, devotees were seen waiting in long queues for their turn to enter the temple. Authorities also issued e-passes to regulate the crowd. No prasad or offerings were allowed in the temple.

At Jhandewalan temple, the aarti was performed only in the morning in the presence of priest and temple staff, with no members of the public allowed. Similarly, at the Chhattarpur Temple, the aarti was performed by the temple staff, while it remained closed for devotees.

Many other temples in the city saw few devotees turn up due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases and strict vigil by the authorities. During Navratri, Hindus offer prayers to the different avatars of the goddess Durga, and fast for nine days.

Surendra Nath Avdhoot, mahant (head priest) Kalkaji Mandir, said the footfall of devotees on Tuesday was much lower compared to previous years, even as the management of the temple ensured that those who visited the temple followed physical distancing norms.

“On the first of Navratri today (Tuesday) only 10,000 to 15,000 devotees turned up for darshan. In previous years, around 100,000 people used to visit the temple. To discourage crowding, we have put in place a system of e-passes. However, some devotees who were without passes were also allowed darshan. Nobody is being allowed to enter without a mask. We have deployed volunteers to ensure that no one violates social distancing norms even while they stand in queue,” Avdhoot said.

At local mosques across the city, the management put up posters on the gates, warning people to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

At several mosques, spots to place prayer mats were marked to ensure social distancing, while hand sanitisers were provided at the gates.

The Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, on Tuesday appealed to Muslims to follow all Covid-19 protocols during Ramzan and try to pray at home as far as possible to ensure there is no crowding at mosques.

In a video posted on social media, Bukhari said, “I have been getting news of people dying of the infection. We must follow the Covid-19 protocols. People have been lax in following the mask rule. They must wear a mask in public places. We have removed the carpet from Jama Masjid and put stickers so that those coming to perform namaaz follow social distancing. I appeal to all local mosques that they should remove mats/carpets and put stickers. I also appeal to the people to not crowd the mosques and try to perform taraweeh (special night prayers during Ramzan) at home as much as possible.”

During Ramzan, Muslims fast for a month between sunrise and sunset and perform special night prayers. The month culminates in the festival of Eid-ul fitr. Crowding in mosques and markets is common during Ramzan.

The popular Jhandewalan Devi Mandir also remained closed for devotees on Tuesday. Some people were seen offering prayers outside the temple. Only the temple staff attended the morning and evening aartis.

“It is sad that we can’t go inside the temple and take the blessings of Matarani (goddess Durga) during Navratri. But the safety of people is also equally important, so it’s a wise decision to keep the temple closed for the public,” said Ramesh Chandra Gupta, a devotee, outside the Jhandewalan temple.

A functionary at the Jhandewalan Devi temple, who asked not to be named, said: “The safety of the devotees is paramount for us. We have made arrangements of live broadcast of aarti on the temple website.”

The district administration maintained vigil to discourage crowding at temples.

Vishwendra, district magistrate (south-east), said the Kalkaji Mandir is the biggest temple in the region, so elaborate arrangements were made to ensure that there is no crowding and people follow Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.

“We have deployed over 100 civil defence volunteers in and around Kalkaji temple to keep a vigil. We have also issued fines against violators. In the temple premises, we have also shut shops that used to sell prasad, flowers and other offerings. People were largely seen following Covid guidelines,” he said.

A senior official of the central district, who also asked not to be named, said, “Constant vigil was maintained around temples and also in residential neighbourhoods to ensure that religious gatherings do not take place. We are strictly enforcing Covid-19 guidelines.”

Talking about arrangements at the Kalkaji temple, deputy commisioner of police (southeast) RP Meena said that nearly 100 police personnel were deployed around the temple for security, and to ensure that the devotees followed the Covid guidelines.

“The temple management has issued e-passes and only those who had valid passes were allowed to enter the temple. Inside the temple, circles have been made on the floor for the devotees to wait in a queue. Nobody was found violating the rules,” said Meena.

Meanwhile, at the Jhandewalan temple, police personnel were deployed in adequate numbers as part of their anti-terror measures as well as to enforce Covid-19 appropriate behaviour in the premises, said DCP (central) Jasmeet Singh.

“All the rituals were performed behind the closed gates,” he said.

As per data released by the Delhi Police, 3,155 people were prosecuted for mask violations and 56 challans were issued for not following social distancing across the city till 4pm on Tuesday.

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