BENGALURU : The festival season has begun. But the raging Covid-19 pandemic has taken the sheen off the festivities for the first time probably in a century. In a first again in the last 42 years, the Canara Union Association in Malleswaram has seen no bookings of its premises for Durga Puja this year.
Members of Prabasee Association, which books the premises for religious and culture programmes, besides offering various delicacies, say the pandemic and the restrictions have forced scaling down of activities, compromising the celebrations.
Across Bengaluru and state too, the festivities are low key. Even Garba and Dandiya events, wherever held, will be with strict restrictions as no more than 100 people are allowed. The authorities are even more cautious as the Ganesh Chaturthi in Karnataka (August 22) and Onam in Kerala (August 22 to September 2) pushed up numbers, adding to the Covid tally.
While Kerala is witnessing a second surge in Covid cases, Ganesh Chaturthi pushed up numbers in Karnataka with intermittent single-day spikes of 9,000-plus cases, and then even up to over 10,000-plus on some days — something not witnessed prior to that, according to the state Covid war room data.
A similar trend of increase in cases was noticed during the Varamahalakshmi Puja (July 31) when thousands gathered to buy flowers near KR Market in Bengaluru. For Mysuru Dasara, termed as Nada Habba (Festival of the State), the administration has restricted the entry of people to the 10-day festivities at Chamundi Hills to 200 and to Mysuru Palace for the famous Jumboo Savari to 300. Despite that, crowds thronged the famous Devaraja Market in the Culture City.
There was no social distancing, and many were without masks while bargaining with vendors. More than the celebrations, the authorities are engaged in ramping up tests by including mobile testing booths and measures like mandatory testing for vendors in busy areas, said Shiraz Ahmed, Nodal officer for Covid-19 testing in Mysuru.
Dasara is a grand celebration at Dharwad and a series of programmes, both religious and cultural, used to be organised over nine days, concluding with the Jumboo Savari on Viajaya Dashami Day. This time, event organisers are in a dilemma as the administration has prohibited large-scale celebrations. The Durga Mata Doud (a marathon), conducted during the Dasara, is unlikely to be held this year. The marathon, usually run by women devotees, is held in the morning hours.
During Deepavali, Kobbari Hori Habba or Hatti Habba (bull races) is common across Haveri district. But as large crowds are likely to gather, the administration is unlikely to allow this too. In Belagavi, Karnataka Shiv Pratishtan Hindustan’s Durga Mata Doud usually sees hundreds of participants, but the number participants has been restricted to only six per day.
The large population from Rajasthan and Gujarat, settled in Belagavi, is also unlikely to take part in the Garba and Dandia, which are grand dance events every Navaratri. The state government is imposing restrictions on mega Kannada Rajyotsava celebrations in Belagavi which will prevent thousands of Kannadigas from landing in the city on November 1. The Dasara procession on the final day of Navaratri on October 26 in Mangaluru and Madikeri will be devoid of tableaux and will see minimum folk troupes. The authorities had initially also banned Tiger Dance in the procession, but following stiff resistance it was allowed only on temple premises.
Efforts are being made to restrict the number of people attending it. The authorities had made Covid- negative certificates mandatory for those taking part in Karaga and Cauvery Theerthodbhava that took place in Kodagu on Saturday. Kudroli Sri Gokarnatheshwara Temple in Mangaluru which is celebrating "Namma Dasara - Namma Surakshe" has banned children below six at all Navaratri celebrations, besides making masks compulsory for the participants.
The Udupi district administration is planning to conduct Covid tests of vulnerable sections, like shopkeepers, staff of banks, salons, restaurants among others, during festivities. In Shivamogga, cultural programmes and statelevel wrestling competitions held every year besides the grand elephant procession from Sakrebailu Elephant Camp have been scrapped. The city corporation is holding festivities without fanfare this year. There will be religious rituals on all nine days, but no cultural programmes. The events are being telecast live, so people can watch it on TV instead. District Health Officer Dr Rajesh Suragihalli said that organisers have been asked to strictly follow the guidelines.