MUMBAI/ THANE: Continuing its tradition of muted festivities in a bid to curb Covid-19 cases, the state home department on Tuesday clamped restrictions on the upcoming Navratri, Durga Puja and Dussehra celebrations. Mandals have been instructed to not organise dandiya, garba or any cultural event that draws crowds, and instead conduct health awareness programmes about Covid-19, dengue or malaria, and hold blood donation drives.

Like Ganeshotsav, the height of Devi idols will be capped at 4ft in sarvajanik mandals and 2ft in households.
Navratri begins October 17, while Dussehra falls on October 25.
Devotees are advised to worship idols made of metal or marble rather than install clay moortis, and perform immersion at home or at artificial immersion sites. Donations will be voluntary and advertisements cannot be displayed in a manner that attracts crowds.
Not more than five devotees may be present inside the pandal at a time, food or drink cannot be served, and social distancing, masks, use of sanitiser and thermal screening will be mandatory. Mandals should facilitate online darshan. Immersion processions are restricted.
The Ravan dahan performed on Dussehra will be symbolic minus crowds, and streamed online, if possible.
Garba organisers had been awaiting these guidelines to decide their course of action for the festive season.
In Borivli, Ganesh Naidu of the Kora Kendra venue was hoping the government would permit a “small gathering of 1,000-2,000 people” on the ground which measures around 2 lakh sq ft. “We could observe social distancing and ensure that revellers wear masks and use sanitisers. But the least we will do is draft singers to sing the ‘Mataji ka garba’ on the ground and relay the music online to people who wish to participate at home,” Naidu said.
In Ghatkopar, Jignesh Khilani, secretary of the Ghatkopar Gujarati Samaj, echoed the same plan. “Now that public gatherings are not allowed, we will organise a virtual dandia with a few artistes and distribute the online link to housing societies, private clubs or any group that wishes to host a small, private event. We can all celebrate in our respective compounds while following state guidelines,” he said.
However, the government official who issued the circular clarified that housing societies were also governed by the guidelines issued for mandals. They cannot host garba gatherings either.
In Thane, some popular Navratri mandals had already decided to not celebrate the festival. NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad from Kalwa-Mumbra recently announced the cancellation of the Parsik Nagar celebrations considering the possible spread of the virus, while his colleague Milind Patil, who organises a large celebration in Manisha Nagar, also shelved his plans. Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik also cancelled the annual garba festival at Samta Nagar conducted under the aegis of his NGO Sanskruti Yuva Pratishthan. He said the money would be used for Covid relief.
(Inputs by Bella Jaisinghani)

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