Eastern India’s one of the biggest religious congregation – the month-long Shravani mela at Deoghar and kanwar yatra attached to it- are unlikely to take place for the second consecutive time this year amid COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that include ban on visiting religious places of worship.
The month of Shravan begins from July 25 this year but so far there has been no preparations from the side of Deoghar district administration, an indication that the state government will not allow the fair and gathering of kanwarias at the famous Baba Baidyanath temple at Deoghar, considered one of the 12 Jyotirlingas.
The government is yet to come out with a formal order on the mega event when lakhs of devotees across the country turn-up to offer prayer to Lord Shiva at Baidyanath temple, but there are indications that the event would be a no-show this year too like last occasion.
The Jharkhand government had on June 30 extended the coronavirus lockdown-like restrictions for the eighth time till further orders with a provision that “all religious places/places of worship are permitted to open but visitors are prohibited”.
Director General of Police, Jharkhand, Neeraj Sinha said on Saturday people should follow and respect the curbs imposed by the government in the light of COVID pandemic.
“We have deployed police force at Bihar borders and Deoghar borders to avoid congregation,” Sinha told PTI.
Each year, during the rainy season, devotees in many states undertake kanwar yatra to collect water from the Ganga and other rivers and offer it at the temples of Lord Shiva in major pilgrim centres.
Kanwarias in the eastern region undertake a 100-km trek carrying ganga water from Sultanganj in Bihar to offer it to lord Shiva at the Deoghar temple.
Asked about any such measures on the pattern of Uttarakhand where the police chief Ashok Kumar has announced that ‘Kanwarias’ (devotees of Lord Shiva) entering Haridwar despite the suspension of the kanwar yatra will be quarantined for 14 days, Sinha said decision in this regard comes under purview of the state disaster management authority.
Last year also the government had withheld permission for sharavani mela and prohibited kanwar yatra during nationwide lockdown.
The Uttarakhand government has cancelled the annual kanwar yatra in view of the looming threat of a third wave of COVID-19. The Supreme Court has asked Uttar Pradesh to reconsider its decision on holding kanwar yatra.
The Jharkhand government this year had withheld permission for the Ratha Yatra festival at the Jagannath temple in Ranchi on July 12 in view of the pandemic and Chief Minister Hemant Soren had appealed to the masses to worship lord Jagannath while at home.
Soren who had reached the temple had worshipped from outside and subsequently issued directions to close the temple doors for visitors.
The latest order of the Jharkhand disaster management department mentions, “All indoor and outdoor congregation of more than 50 persons are prohibited in the state including marriage and last rites related activities.
“Besides, all processions are prohibited in the state…All fairs and exhibitions are prohibited” till further orders.
Also the bus transport in the state has been permitted for only intra-state movements and not inter-state movement.
When contacted Deoghar officials said that they will act as per the directions of the disaster management authority.
Reports from Deogarh said that the doors of the temple are shut for the devotees.
But, many locals are performing religious events like “mundan” (head tonsure) outside the world-famous shrine.
Jharkhand’s COVID-19 tally has risen to 3,46,588 while the death toll stood at 5,120.