Coronavirus casts shadow over Dussehra festivities in Delhi

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New Delhi, Oct 25 (PTI) Dussehra celebrated on Sunday evening under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic lacked the usual festivities and revelry in the national capital as many Ramleela committees shelved plans to hold the customary torching of effigies of the demon king Ravana along with Kumbhkarn and Meghnad.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal greeted people on the occasion and said the pandemic will end soon and the bravery and determination of human race will emerge victorious.

The Ramleela Maidan at the Red Fort that used to be hub of Dussehra festivities, attracting commoners as well as dignitaries, including the president and the prime minister every year, wore a deserted look this time as the Ramleela committees shelved plans to hold Dussehra programmes. Despite the COVID-19 scare and tough guidelines issued by the government for holding large gatherings, organisers in some areas like CBD ground near Karkardooma and GTB Enclave performed 'Ravana Dahan'.

'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.

With the authorities imposing a limit of maximum 200 people for gatherings during festivals and strict measures to prevent COVID-19 infection, prominent Ramleela committees stayed away of Dussehra festivities surrounding 'Ravana Dahan' at the Red Fort grounds.

The lack of festivity was further heightened by the government guidelines banning food stalls and 'jhoolas' in and outside Ramleela and Dussehra programme venues.

With lack of adequate time for preparation for Dussehra and fear of COVID-19 infection, many organisers stuck to the tradition of 'Ravana Dahan' by using old video footage as well as light and sound effects.

Organisers of one of the oldest Ramleelas in the city, Luv Kush Ramleela Committee, held a Dussehra programme at Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's residence, in a symbolic end of coronavirus and pollution personifying Ravana.

'Defeat pollution and corona which are the real Ravana of today,' Sisodia said on the occassion.

In view of the COVID-19 threat, difficulties in keeping the crowd size under 200 and enforcing social distancing norms, many Dussehra festival organisers had to depend on safer ways to maintain the tradition.

'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 Model Town.

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) issued guidelines for holding gatherings ahead of the festivals, on October 11, limiting number to maximum of 200 people and putting restrictions on setting up food stalls, swings, squatting among others at the venues.

Anil Sharma, president of RK Puram Ramleela Dharmik Samiti, said a short version of a four-day long Ramleela was held that concluded with a symbolic 'Ravana Dahan' with the use of sound and light effects. PTI VIT TDS TDS