Tubs, cemented tanks and inflatable bath tubs: Chhath Puja performed amid unprecedented restrictions
With worship in public spaces banned by the Delhi government, many were compelled to share common water spots, which eventually meant that the threat of infection remained despite them not visiting the Yamuna ghats, where the crowds, had they been permitted, would have been much higher.Updated: Nov 21, 2020, 04:07 IST
From humble tubs and cemented tanks on terraces to inflatable bath tubs and pits hastily dug on empty plots, devotees in Delhi found their own way -- in the face of unprecedented restrictions owing to the spike in Covid-19 cases -- to offer prayers to the sun god as part of the Chhath Puja festivities that began on Friday evening.
With worship in public spaces banned by the Delhi government, many were compelled to share common water spots, which eventually meant that the threat of infection remained despite them not visiting the Yamuna ghats, where the crowds, had they been permitted, would have been much higher.
The more fortunate ones were able to arrange private water spots as well as ensure that only those without infection shared the worship space. The water body plays an important role in Chhath Puja as devotees have to stand in water and offer prayers, before taking a dip.
In any case, the Delhi Police said there were no violations of the government order, issued last week, prohibiting Chhath prayers at the common ghats. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, on Thursday, had appealed to residents to perform the Chhath prayers from their homes rather than venturing to the ghats.
While a few devotees said that a week-long notice was enough for them to make alternative arrangements, others said they struggled to come up with practical options.
Ram Yadav, a professional photographer living in Dwarka’s Sector 22, said eight Purvanchali families in his colony joined hands to set up two cement tanks on the terraces. “Four people performed puja in one tank, and three others used the other one. Although the risk of infection exists while sharing a tank, we were fortunate to know that none of us was infected,” said Yadav.
Raj Kishore, a driver who lives with some other poor families in jhuggis near JNU in south Delhi, said he and three other families had to dig a pit in the fields nearby to perform the puja. “We had to do the digging on our own as we didn’t have the money to hire anyone. And this is a festival that can’t be missed, even on account of a pandemic or anything else,” said Kishore.
Kanchan Devi, a resident of south Delhi’s Sanjay Vihar, joined hands with a few neighbours to dig a pit measuring 6X4 feet in an empty plot near their house and then used a water pump to fill it. “Relatives were insistent on many of them attending the puja. But we had to be firm and ensure only two performed the puja at once,” said Devi.
Many said the puja this year was a “compromise” and that they lacked the “satisfaction”.
“The tradition is to take a dip in the water body. But how do you take a dip in a tub,” said Archana Karn, a resident of Mandi House who had earlier performed the puja at the India Gate pond.
This time, she bathed in her house and then visited the terrace to do the puja. “I sought forgiveness of Chhath Mata for any mistakes. It’s the first time in 25 years that we have had to make such arrangements,” said Karn.
In neighbourhoods where residents did not have avenues to make arrangements, local Chhath Puja samitis stepped in.
Arvind Thakur, president of the Purvanchal Chhath Puja Committee (Dwarka-Najafgarh), said that people living as tenants mostly faced problems due to lack of space and terraces. “We advised them to use plastic sheets and bricks to prepare makeshift tubs. We knew of the restrictions in time and alerted them to make alternative arrangements,” said Thakur.
He said while no one missed out on performing the puja eventually, the fervour was missing. “It is a different joy to gather in thousands at the ghats. We tried to make up for it by playing puja songs on loudspeakers,” said Thakur.
In south-east district, the local police distributed tubs to slum residents to perform the puja, said the deputy commissioner of police, RP Meena.
Police said that they had been urging residents not to gather at the ghats. “We made announcements in Bhojpuri, and sent out WhatsApp videos about the new rules. We held over 50 meetings with local residents. We also deployed our personnel at the ghats to prevent a gathering,” said Atul Kumar Thakur, DCP (south).
The police said that there were no gatherings at the ghats across the city.
PK Mishra, DCP (Rohini), said that areas in his jurisdiction such as Aman Vihar, Prem Nagar and KN Katju Marg have a high population of Biharis. “We deployed our personnel since noon itself. No one visited the ghats,” said the DCP.
A similar puja is scheduled for Saturday morning, but the police said they were prepared for that as well.