Maha celebrates Diwali in toned-down manner amid COVID-19

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Mumbai, Nov 14 (PTI) Diwali, the festival of lights, is being celebrated across Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on Saturday with fervour, but in a subdued manner under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, Laxmi Pujan, the main day of Diwali, and Naraka Chaturdashi, are being celebrated on the same day on Saturday.

In Maharashtra, families celebrate this day by getting up early in the morning and having an 'abhyanga snan' (ritual bath) as per the custom. People light earthen lamps, adorn the balconies with 'akash kandil' (sky lantern) and colourful rangoli patterns are drawn at the entrance of houses.

Early morning 'Diwali Pahat' cultural programmes in major cities across Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Nashik, have become an integral part of the festival.

However, these programmes were missing this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Nevertheless, some organisations conducted online programmes, like musical events and interviews.

Masunda Lake in Thane city and Phadke Road in Dombivli (in Thane district) are famous spots for such programmes, where people gather in large numbers to enjoy the cultural extravaganza. However, such celebrations were cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

Even as the Maharashtra government has not banned firecrackers, the Shiv Sena-led Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has announced a ban on the use of crackers and fireworks in the city to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The civic body has, however, allowed use of 'mild firecrackers' on Laxmi Pujan, saying Mumbaikars can use anar (cracker known for a sparkling display and showers of coloured sparks upwards) and 'fulzadi' (sparklers) at their private premises.

In a recent review meeting with senior COVID-19 task force members on the preparedness for a possible second wave, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had said firecrackers could have an adverse effect on lungs.

Maharashtra has so far recorded 17,40,461 coronavirus positive cases, while 45,809 people have so far died due to the infection. PTI KK NP NP