Low-key Chhath puja celebrations in Kolkata

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Kolkata, Nov 20 (PTI) Chhath puja was on Friday observed here without much fanfare, as processions synonymous with the festival were largely missing from the city roads, and people performed rituals at the temporary ghats set up by the civic authorities, while maintaining physical distance.

At least 44 temporary ghats and two waterbodies have been set up in Kolkata for the purpose.

Devotees offered puja in small groups, as authorities ensured effluents were discarded and the water was immediately cleaned once the rituals were over, officials said.

On Saturday, too, people will visit the ghats to pray to Sun God at the crack of dawn, they said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in a tweet, said, 'Heartiest greetings to the people of Bengal, India and all over the world on the auspicious occasion of Chhath Puja. May Lord Surya fulfil all your wishes.' Banerjee, in a separate message, appealed to people to offer prayers at home or visit neighbourhood ponds.

'If the devotees live near a river, they can visit ghats in small groups,' she said, urging everyone to cooperate with the administration and honour the orders of the judiciary.

Banerjee, who attended a Chhath puja at Kuthighat area in central Kolkata, said around 1,300 waterbodies have been set up all over the state for the devotees.

The Supreme Court had on Thursday ruled that Chhath puja will not be allowed at the Rabindra Sarobar Lake, while the Calcutta High Court banned celebrations at Subas Sarobar.

Civic authorities, in keeping with the court orders, locked the gates of the two lakes.

An official of Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority -- the custodian of the two lakes -- said five gates of Rabindra Sarobar and several entry points of Subhas Sarobar were locked on Thursday midnight, with personnel of the Kolkata Police guarding the premises.

Another KMC official said, 'Hundreds of people visited the atificial brick pond set up in north Kolkata and offered Chhat puja in ankle-deep water.

Environmentalist Sumita Bandyopadhyay, one of the crusaders of 'Save Rabindra Sarobar' movement in Kolkata, said, 'It is a day of victory for conservationists, as not a single person was allowed access to the lake. Hats off to the Kolkata Police, the KMDA, the NGT and the High Court for making this possible.

'Unlike last year, there will be no turtle carcass or dead fish floating in the water. We are all for celebrating Chhath, but environment should not be damaged,' she said.

The NGT had passed an order in 2018, banning Chhath puja at Rabindra Sarobar.

Hundreds of devotees, however, flouted the ban and broke open the gates of the lake in 2019 to perform the puja.

Earlier in the day, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had extended his greetings to everyone on the occasion.

'Warmest greetings to everyone on the auspicious occasion of Maha Parv #ChhathPuja. May positivity of Chhath Puja spread in our life and fill it with good health, peace, prosperity and happiness as also well being of all. Let purest thoughts guide all our actions,' Dhankhar tweeted.

A spokesman of Bihari Samaj in the city said, 'We urge our community members to offer Chhat puja in similar way like they did today. Thanks to everyone for following the directives of the court. Let's not flout COVID-19 guidelines.' PTI SUS RMS RMS