Dussehra spirit in Delhi amid curbs
Residents of the Capital on Friday marked Dussehra with low-key celebrations in light of Covid-19 protocols in place and a blanket ban on the use of firecrackers in order to mitigate the threat of severe air pollution, which happens every winter.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) allowed festival celebrations this year but prohibited rallies and processions, firecrackers, idol immersions, stalls and shops inside and outside venues and also limited the number of visitors to half the venue capacity.
At the Red Fort grounds, the venue of the city’s most prominent Ramlila and Dussehra event, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal took part in the ritual of shooting an arrow to set ablaze the effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghnad, to signify the symbolic victory of good over evil.
Unlike previous years when the Ravana effigies used to be over 100-foot tall, this year, they were much smaller — about 30-foot tall — and though they were set afire for real, organisers used light and sound effects to mimic the sound and feel of firecrackers.
“Every resident of Delhi is affected by severe air pollution. We were very particular about strictly adhering to the ban on firecrackers. We are happy that people found the light and sound show entertaining,” said Arjun Kumar, general secretary of the committee that organises the annual Ramlila and Dussehra celebrations on the Red Fort ground.
The blanket ban on firecrackers and Covid-19 regulations, combined with other factors such as a decline in donations, forced numerous local Dussehra organisers in the Capital to cancel celebrations this year.
A large number of Delhi residents chose to celebrate the festival at home, by tuning into TV channels and online platforms that were live-streaming Dussehra rituals.
“Although Covid-19 cases are declining, it is still unsafe to participate in large gatherings. When people have easy access to smartphones and internet, it is best not to step out,” said Apoorva Kumar, a resident of Delhi’s GTB Enclave.
The prohibition on sale, purchase, storage and use of firecrackers in Delhi will remain in place till the end of the year -- essentially covering Diwali, Chhath Puja, Guru Parv, Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Dussehra also coincides with Durga Visarjan – the day when organisers of Durga Puja take the idol for immersion in water bodies.
While the Yamuna and natural water bodies in the city have been made out of bounds for these immersions, by the guidelines of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Delhi government this year did not make arrangements such as artificial ponds for collective idol immersion, thus forcing organisers to make arrangements of their own near the pandals.
“We were told by the district administration about the idol immersion rules and we made adequate arrangements for immersion on the temple premises. We have been doing that for a few years now. The restrictions are understandable because rallies and processions are prohibited in light of the pandemic,” said Swapan Ganguly, convener of the Kalibari temple in New Delhi’s Mandir Marg, which hosts one of the most prominent Durga Puja pandals in the city.
Several other organisers, however, chose to celebrate without having idols. They said the rituals are conducted in the presence of an earthen urn, which is immersed on the day of visarjan.
“We had to immerse the kalash (urn), which was not a difficult task. We made adequate arrangements at the venue itself,” said Robin Bose, secretary of the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja committee.