Dussehra celebrations across the country on Sunday were highly subdued with the festival’s main highlight — the customary burning of the effigies of Ravana in the presence of large revelrous crowds — disrupted this year by the coronavirus pandemic.
IMAGE: People look on as an effigy of demon king Ravana burns during Dussehra festival, at Karkardooma in New Delhi, on Sunday. Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo
As government-issued guidelines in many places banned large congregations and setting up of fairs or food stalls, the torching of effigies was restricted to very few venues than usual.
The Ramleela Maidan at the iconic Red Fort where every year the Dussehra festivities are attended by dignitaries including the prime minister and the President apart from hundreds of common people, was deserted this time as the annual celebrations were cancelled.
IMAGE: People look on as an effigy burns during Dussehra festival, in New Delhi, on Sunday. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI Photo
In the national capital, prominent Ramleela Committees including the Luv Kush committee, one of the oldest organisers of Ramleela in New Delhi, shelved the Dussehra programme as the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had imposed a limit of a maximum 200 people for festival gatherings and strict safeguard measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection.
At many places, light and sound effects were used to recreate ‘Ravana Dahan’.
IMAGE: People look on Ravana effigy burns during Dussehra festival, in Gurugram, on Sunday. Photograph: PTI Photo
Some used video footage from the previous years’ celebrations.
“The use of light and sound effects mixed with old footage of Ravana Dahan is safe as controlling the crowd at the festival is very difficult,” said Ashok Goel of Sri Keshav Ramleela Committee in the city’s Model Town.
IMAGE: Artists perform Ramlila during Dussehra festival, in New Delhi, on Sunday. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI Photo
Even at places where the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad were torched, organisers opted for smaller effigies this year.
“We reduced the size of the effigies from over 30 feet to around 18 feet this time. Special attention was given to manage the crowd and ensure social distancing,” said Harish Rawat, general secretary of GTB Enclave Ramleela Committee in Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wishing people on the occasion in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address, said with various festivals coming up, they need to show patience and follow health guidelines while celebrating these auspicious occasions due to the pandemic situation.
IMAGE: An effigy of demon king Ravana burns during Dussehra festival, in Navi Mumbai, on Sunday. Photograph: PTI Photo
“Today, all of you are carrying on with immense patience, celebrating the festival with restraint, and hence, in our ongoing fight, our victory too is assured,” Modi said.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, while extending his Dussehra greetings to citizens, also urged them to celebrate the festival this year in a modest way by strictly adhering to the health protocols due to the pandemic.
IMAGE: People take part in a procession during Dussehra festival, in Vijayawada, on Sunday. Photograph: PTI Photo
‘I extend my warm greetings and good wishes to the people of our country on the auspicious occasion of Dussehra.
‘Celebrated with great fervour and zeal all over the country, Dussehra symbolises the victory of good over evil,’ the Vice President Secretariat tweeted, quoting Naidu.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh celebrated Dussehra with soldiers.
He performed ‘Shastra Puja’ (worship of weapons) at a key military base in Siliguri which is responsible for guarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the Sikkim sector.
IMAGE: Devotees carry the chariot of Lord Raghunath during Kullu Dussehra procession, in Kullu, on Sunday. Photograph: PTI Photo
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal greeted people on the occasion via a tweet saying the pandemic will end soon and the bravery and determination of human race will emerge victorious.
In the national capital, the Luv Kush Ramleela Committee held a Dussehra programme at Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s residence where the symbolic end of Ravana was personified by coronavirus and pollution.
“Defeat pollution and corona which are the real Ravana of today,” Sisodia said on the occasion.
In Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, people burnt an effigy of coronavirus to mark the victory of good over evil.
IMAGE: BJP Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia prays during traditional Dussehra puja, in Gwalior district, Sunday. Photograph: PTI Photo
At the exhibition ground in the district, an effigy of coronavirus was a new addition to the usual effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad that were torched by state minister Kapil Dev Aggarwal and MLA Umesh Malik.
Dussehra celebrations in Punjab and Haryana were also low-key with no big functions held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Celebrations at various places in the two states including Mohali, Hoshiarpur, Phagwara, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ambala, Yamunanagar and Panchkula were muted.
Places where functions were held witnessed small gatherings.