The month of Shravan kick starts a series of festivities beginning with RakSha Bandhan, the 10 day Ganesh Festival and the various traditional Maharashtrian Rituals like Mangalagouri.
It’s all going to be quietly celebrated now thanks to the pandemic…
Generally, the Fergusson College Road, where youngsters swarm by the hundreds, bears a dismal look these days. With colleges shut down, and shutters down of the various small shops that sell fast food, trinkets and fashionable clothes at low rates, this year, the stalls selling rakhis too are deserted. As I passed by, I saw a string of colourful rakhis lined up in a couple of stalls that were half covered by cloth. Surely, the 3rd August event of the sister-brother bond would be a subdued celebration with much caution.
The biggest news though is that of the historic Ganesh Festival, would be subdued as announced by the Pune Municipal Corporation.
It has declared that the same permissions given to the over 2500 Ganesh Mandals in 2019 would be relevant for this year too. So, Ganesh Mandal organisers need not rush to PMC and crowd there. Significantly, processions for installation of Lord Ganesha idol on the first day and immersion on the last day have been banned. While the Ganesh Mandals would be putting up the deities, clearly people would be refrained from thronging to the Pandals. PMC has also issued strict directives to citizens stating that preferably Ganesh idols should be immersed within the house itself (that is, in a bucket of water). It would no create immersion tanks in public gardens and alongside river banks to refrain people from coming outdoors for immersion with families and friends.
This is a historic and unprecedented decision, as ironically, the Ganesh Festival which was launched by Lokmanya Tilak in Pune, to bring people together on a social platform, in 1893, about one and a half century ago, would now be keeping away people for their own good. Indeed, social distancing would over power social togetherness and paradoxically keeping away from people is the new genre of social conscientiousness and social ethics!
The cheerful chanting of Ganpati Bappa Morya would be on everyone’s lips but with a diluted note. Already, the energetic and vibrant beating of the dholaks along riversides, in the months of July and August when rehearsals go in full swing, for welcoming Lord Ganesha, have been completely silenced. So what would the Ganesh Mandals do this year as the Ganesh Pandals’ star attractions are stage sets, illumination and décor.
With people not visiting to appreciate the creativity, would it be just a formality to host the Lord Ganesh deity in the Pandal? We would have to wait and watch.
In Konkan, the Ganesh Festival is also a great social and cultural heritage. Most of the Ganesh idols are made in villages and towns of Konkan. Thousands of locals from this region earn their livelihood in Pune and Mumbai. Many of them take a 10 day break to return to their hometowns in Konkan. This year, the state government has made it compulsory to undergo 10 day quarantine once they reach their respective hometowns. Hence, many of them are taking 20 days leave from their employers. There too, it would be celebrated within each household.
Gauri Pujan is a big luncheon festivity in the midst of the Ganesh Festival, when married women in their expensive traditional saris and jewellery are invited for a lunch feast. Similarly Manglagaur – a women’s event every Tuesday of Shravan is a popular religious and social get together. This time, people would refrain from inviting guests and perhaps these too would end on a quiet note.
Of course, Dassera and Diwali would follow suit but it’s too early to judge whether the pandemic would recede and give hope of celebrations. However, chances are grim as even if life gets back to normal, it would take lot of time for the economy to bounce back. Would there be customers for buying clothes and sweetmeats? As it is, in the 2019 of Diwali, a shopkeeper of Laxmi Road had stated that, for the first time, there were not even a handful of customers on the day of Bhau Beej in all the shops put together. Then, the economy was already in slump due to some financial decisions taken by the government.
This year, with huge job losses due to the pandemic, it is unlikely that we would see even a glimpse of the glitter of Dassera and Diwali.
Would Santa Claus bring in some good news for Christmas? Everyone’s hoping against hope that he would take away all the bad fortune of 2020 along with him on his sleigh. With the hope that 2021 would start off in positivity and good cheer!
Surely, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it seems we would have to still cover more distance before we see that.
Until then, Wearing Masks, Watching Social distance and Washing hands is the only answer for a better, brighter and healthier future!
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
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