With hardly a week left for Navratri, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on Friday, issued guidelines for the nine days long festival on the lines of the restrictions imposed during Ganeshotsav. The civic body has urged people to celebrate Navratri and Dussehra in a low-key manner due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The nine days festival begins on October 17. Keeping up with its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the state government had last week announced that there will be no garba, dandiya or any cultural events involving mass participation this year. Instead, it suggested organising health and blood donation camps during the festival, as many Ganesotsav mandals did.
In the guidelines issued by the state home department last week, festival organisers have been asked to spread awareness on COVID-19, malaria and dengue, amongst other diseases. The mandals will also have to take permission from the civic body in advance and will be allowed to set up mandaps (tents) keeping in mind public safety amidst the pandemic. The civic body has, meanwhile, announced that the height of the Durga/ goddess idol has been capped at four feet for public pandals and two feet for private/domestic celebrations.
The civic body 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 distance. Also, the arrival and immersion processions are prohibited to avoid large gatherings of people.
Moreover, the guidelines directed the organisers to encourage online darshan to avoid crowding in pandals and adequate measures, such as physical distancing and thermal scanning, should be undertaken. “This year, not more than five people have been allowed inside the pandal and proper protocol like social distancing and disinfection should be strictly adhered to,” said Deputy Municipal Commissioner Harshad Kale.
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,” said an official.
The two festivals pose yet another challenge for the civic body, which has been at the forefront of battling the deadly coronavirus outbreak. The city witnessed a rapid growth in the number of infections in several parts of the city after Ganesh Chaturthi. The civic body is therefore being extra cautious this time.