Bhopal, Nov 12 (PTI) The five-day Diwali festival started on a dull note under the shadow of COVID-19 on Thursday in Chitrakoot - a holy place in Madhya Pradesh closely associated with Lord Ram.
Devotees in small numbers turned up at the banks of the Madakani river in Chitrakoot to do deep daan (offering of lighted lamps) on Dhanteras evening to mark the start of the five-day-long festival, Hindu priests said.
In contrast, the place saw visits by more than 35 lakh devotees during the festival of lights last year, most of them coming on the day of Laxmi Pujan, they said.
It is widely believed that after the end of his 14- year-long exile, Lord Ram had also performed 'deep daan' in Chitrakoot which comes under Satna district.
Diwali is celebrated to mark the end of his exile and return to Ayodhya.
According to mythology, Chitrakoot is the place where Lord Ram had spent a significant part of his exile period.
'Excitement and thrill is missing this time around here. A thin number of believers turned up and performed deep daan on Dhanteras, Mahant Mohit Das, of the famous Hanuman Sidh Peeth Tulsi Gufa based in Uttar Pradesh, told PTI over the phone.
Adjoining Uttar Pradesh has its own Chitrakoot district which borders Satna.
This is the place where Lord Ram had spent 11 years, 6 months and 18 days when in exile,' he said.
'Our Lord also performed deep daan in the holy Madakani river before departing for Ayodhya, the 25-year religious leader, who is preparing to crack UGCs National Eligibility Test and do PhD on Ramcharitmanas, said.
'I have been born and brought up in Chitrakoot. I have never seen such a tame Diwali. Trains are not running to Chitrakoot.
'Besides, the COVID-19-induced lockdown has rendered many people jobless and affected their financial condition,' Mohit Das added.
Satna Collector Ajay Katesaria said the number of devotees visiting the holy town has come down considerably this Diwali.
'I was there in Chitrakoot from 8.30 am to 1 pm.
Only a few devotees had come. Some buses with faithfuls started arriving in the evening,' Katesariatold PTI.
'We are anticipating around 15 per cent turnout of devotees this time around (compared to 2019),' the collector said.
Another mahant Satyaprakash Das said the joy, delight and excitement associated with the most awaited festival in Hindu calender are missing in Chitrakoot this time around.
Devotees from the entire country used to start flocking here a day ahead of Dhanteras, he added.
Chitrakoot falls in the northern Vindhya range of mountains spread over the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Every year, a sea of devotees take a holy dip in the Madakani and do deep daan during during the festival, which starts with Dhanteras and ends on 'Bhai Dooj'.
However, the coronavirus has put a brake to large- scale festivities this year. PTI LAL MAS RSY RSY