The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has cancelled all major large scale celebrations of Ram Navami across the country in order to fight the threat of Covid-19 spread.
The Hindu organisation will mark the auspices in small ceremonies at the local level, and at homes, to mark its celebrations of Ram and Ram Navami.
Every year, VHP’s massive celebrations of Ram Navami involve lakhs of Ram devotees across the country. The organisation has not only toned down the plans for the occasion, but has minimised the participation of people to put in effect social distancing as appealed for by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The VHP will observe Ram Navami with bare minimum strength of people in temples if the situation allows.
Joint General secretary, VHP, Surendra Jain told Swarajya, “We are people of a responsible organisation. Any issue that hinders the work of the local administration towards law enforcement, or interferes with public health, will not take place from our end.”
According to Jain, VHP will be focussing on making people celebrate Ram Navami at homes, and will mark it with the saffron patakas at homes to send a message.
Ram Navami celebrations in Ayodhya, where neither the VHP nor the government plays a role in inviting devotees or in the organising of the annual fairs, are expected to see the impact of decisions from the local administration.
Jain adds, “The Ram Navami mela and related celebrations in Ayodhya are done by the people of the samaj — the society. VHP plays no role in either the organising of the fair or in the controlling of the crowds. It has been going on for thousands of years.”
As far as the mela is concerned, no cancellation has been announced yet. “Rok nahin hain, bheed par niyantran kiya ja raha hai, ki bheed kam se kam aaye (there is no cancellation, measures are being channelised to control the inflow of crowds, to ensure that the minimum possible crowds come in),” an official said.
According to Prasar Bharati News Service on Twitter, an important annual parikrama (circumvention) of Ayodhya has been cancelled due to Coronavirus.
Some administrative decisions will be made today and it will be clear by the evening as to what the administration has planned to encourage the sizing down of participation, or towards any strict measures, if any, towards the inflow of people coming to Ayodhya.
Every year, lakhs of devotees gather in Ayodhya for prayers and celebrations dedicated to Ram and Ram Navami. Anuj Jha, district magistrate of Ayodhya, told Swarajya that further updates on advisories from the city administration surrounding the Ram Navami mela held and celebrations will be given in the evening.
Earlier, the Economic Times had reported that Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has appealed to people to hold any religious ceremony they want to hold at their respective houses and avoid any religious gathering as the country battles the spread of the Covid-19.
So far, it seems that the UP government and the local administration have not taken a tough call on the stopping or cancellation of the participation of the people in the melas or the cancellation of the annual fair in Ayodhya.
Adityanath has been appealing to people to keep the celebrations restricted to homes in order to fight and curb the threat of Covid-19 spread.
A snaan (bath) takes place on the occasion of Ram Navami in Ayodhya and draws a large number of devotees every year.
The event happens on a large scale every year and this has stirred concerns amidst the Covid-19 threat.
Unlike the Kumbh snaan, in which the district administration plays a role in organising the event and arrangements, the Ram Navami snaan will see the district administration only looking after the crowd control.
The government is appealing to people through the district administration to avoid participation in the snaan. There are expectations that the snaan would be low key.
Ram Navami is falling on 2 April this year.
Jain adds that he believes that people in the villages would respond to the call and appeals of the government and the decision it takes on their participation in Ayodhya.
“We believe that devotees, especially those from the villages, will abide by the decisions taken by the local administration in this regard,” he adds.
VHP's Ramotsav programmes, which were meant to be held across India to celebrate Chaitra Navami or Ram Navami, have not been cancelled completely, but their presence has been altered in terms of number of participants. “Karyakram staghit nahin hue hain, unka swaroop badal gaya hai,” Jain adds.
Jain explains that gatherings across India, which would in normal circumstances involve lakhs of devotees assembling for celebrations have been cancelled owing to the threat of Covid-19 spread.
VHP's celebrations hence would turn towards small gatherings and marking of celebrations involving small and symbolic numbers at local level at temples.
This would be done only if the local administration grants permission for the gathering and as per the number of people allowed by the local administration if the celebrations are allowed at all.
These, Jain asserts, would be involving either 10 or 20 or 50 people if and where allowed by the Covid-19 situation as per the local administration's assessment.
The sthhapana of the idol of Ram Lalla from the tent to the platform in the Ranjanmabhoomi complex, which is scheduled to take place on 25 March is expected to witness Adityanath participating in the puja.
The sthhapana is expected to see a limited number of prominent people associated with the temple trust, and Adityanath himself.
Some of the most important Hindu temples and dhams had been earlier closed down in the wake of Covid-19 spread.
Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra was suspended by the Jammu and Kashmir administration last week. Ujjain's Mahakaleshwar Temple was shut down last week. Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirumala and Sri Jagannath Temple too were closed down for devotees.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), too, has shut down several temples across India and is among other prominent temples which are following the option of shutting down to encourage social distancing to stop the spread of Covid- 19.
The daily aaratis and sevas (rituals offered to the deities) will continue or continue to be conducted by the pujaris and resident devotees of the temples that have been closed down.
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