In a First, 'Holika Dahan' to be Performed Early Morning in Bhopal as Shivraj Govt Hints at More Covid Curbs

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Facing a surge in Covid-19 cases, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh will witness 'Holika Dahan' in the morning on March 29, for the first time.

The Hindu Utsav Samiti in Bhopal late on Thursday evening decided that the Holi fire will be lit at 6:15am on March 29. Kailash Begwani, the president of the Samiti said that the committee office-bearers decided the move after deliberations on Covid-19 guidelines, especially the night curfew, so that locals can take part.

The committee, however, had urged the administration to exempt 'Holika dahan' from the curfew.

The state government has already banned mass Holi gatherings with the slogan 'Mera Ghar-Meri Holi', urging locals to celebrate the festival at home.

Indore's iconic 'gaair' procession that is observed on 'Rangpanchmi', too, has been called off due to the pandemic.

Seven cities, including Bhopal and Indore, are under weekly Sunday lockdown that starts at 10pm on Saturday and ends at 6am on Monday.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan hinted more curbs due to the spread of the infection on Friday, saying "it's a time of emergency". Meanwhile, sources said that any possible lockdown on Holi could be decided by evening in the Covid-19 review meeting.

Indore, which reported over 600 fresh cases in last 24 hours, has witnessed a public rebellion over Holi prohibitions.

Congress MLA Sanjay Shukla has announced that he will light the Holi pyre in Ban Ganga area. BJP leaders, too, have openly opposed the administration orders.

BJP spokesperson Umesh Sharma announced that Holi will be celebrated "even if administration throws locals in jails".

Congress Indore president Vinay Bakliwal termed the decision to ban festivals as "unfortunate". On Thursday, the administration decided to close down markets by 9pm daily.

District Crisis Management Committee Indore on Thursday had announced that all upcoming festivals will be celebrated at home and no public celebrations will be allowed. On March 29 as well, prohibitive orders will remain in place over movement at public places.

In Ujjain's Lord Mahakal temple, five priests will be allowed inside on Holi and the daily number of devotees has been slashed from 12,000 to 8,000.

Madhya Pradesh reported 1,885 fresh cases in a single day on Friday. Indore and Bhopal leading the chart with 584 and 398 cases, respectively.