Janmashtami celebrations in Mumbai remained low-key with most mandals refraining from organising Dahi Handi rituals in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of public gatherings, several mandals organised blood donation camps, distributed medicines and masks among others.
In a first, the celebrations at ISKCON temple in Juhu this year was bereft of its usual fanfare — nearly six lakh devotees throng the temple for two days during Janmashtami. On Tuesday, the temple broadcasted its pujas on social media.
“We asked all community members to view the festivities at home wearing traditional clothes. We appealed to them to perform their pujas at home after the screening (of the rituals). Over the next few days, we will distribute at least 50,000 prasad platters in the localities populated by migrant workers. We are coordinating with the police for this,” Juhu temple spokesperson Parijata Devidasi said.
Similar daylong celebrations were also held at the temple’s Girgaum Chowpatty branch. All the rituals — maha aarti, chanting of mantras and havans — were uploaded on its website.
Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti, an umbrella body that monitors over 1,000 Govinda mandals in Mumbai, had earlier urged its members to organise blood donation camps. Its secretary, Surendra Panchal, said till Sunday, the Samiti oversaw 1,405 blood donation camps in collaboration with the Maharashtra Blood Transfusion Council.
Since the past two weeks, Thane-based Sanskruti Yuva Pratishthan Dahi Handi, holder of Guinness World Record and Limca Book of Records in the past for the tallest human pyramid, has been distributed medicines for cough and cold to the needy. “We have used Rs 1 crore, which we would have otherwise used to organise the festival, to buy five oxygen machines, and 25,000 masks apart from medicines,” organiser and MLA Pratap Sarnaik said. State Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, known for organising one of the city’s richest dahi handi under the banner of Sangharsh Pratishthan, also cancelled celebrations. BJP MLA Ram Kadam’s celebrations at Ghatkopar and BJP leader Krishna Hegde’s group in Vile Parle did not hold celebrations either.
“There is no way we could have maintained social distancing. We have earlier distributed ration, meals, masks and sanitisers. We will look forward to organising the festivities next year,” Hegde said.
Shiv Sena leader Sachin Ahir, who oversees the popular dahi handi celebrations in South Mumbai at Worli’s Jambori maidan, tweeted Tuesday:
“There will be no celebration for dahi handi this year due to corona. But let’s not be disappointed and put a brave fight instead.”
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