The longest dance festival in the world, Navratri, is one occasion when the whole of India spends evenings celebrating colours and traditions. Followed by Dussehra on the tenth day, Navratri marks joy and enthusiasm for the worship of all the manifestations of Goddess Durga.
As much as one waits for Navratri to play Garba and Dandiya, the festival will lose most of the celebratory part of its essence. Owing to a pandemic and the current fall in India’s COVID-19 graph, the state governments have issued some Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed by the citizens who intend on celebrating Navratri.
SOPs issued by the Uttar Pradesh government:
1) Social distancing, covering of face with masks, and the use of sanitisers will be mandatory at prayer gatherings.
2) Citizens above 65, children below 10 years, pregnant women and people with comorbidities should avoid participating in any public programme during the festivals.
3) Events such as the burning of effigies of Ravana, Ramlila yatras, rallies, melas (congregations) and exhibitions would not be allowed during the festive season.
SOPs issued by the Gujarat government:
1) No garba event will be permitted in Gujarat during Navratri, starting from October 17
2) More than 200 people will not be allowed in an event during Durga puja.
3) People will only be given one hour for the prayers.
4) COVID-19 protocols like social distancing and use of masks and sanitisers will have to be followed
5) It will be mandatory for organisations to take prior permission from government authorities to organise programmes during the nine-day festival.
6) Thermal scanners are compulsory at Navratri community prayers and other events.
7) People above the age of 65, pregnant women, children below 10 years and people with comorbidities should avoid taking part in Navratri programmes.
SOPs issued by the Maharashtra government:
1) Garba and Dandiya programmes in the state stand cancelled.
2) People should refrain from holding events that would attract large gatherings of crowds.
3) Instead of hosting celebrations, the various festival organising mandals have been asked to conduct health-related camps, in order to spread awareness and help those in need by holding, say, a blood donation drive.
4) The state government initiative of ‘My Family, My Responsibility’ must also be promoted by all the mandals. Precautionary measures for curtailing the spread of COVID-19, dengue as well as malaria should be highly publicized.
5) Idols made of metal should be worshipped instead of those made of clay or Plaster of Paris.
6) Where metal idols are not used, people should try and use eco-friendly idols which could be dissolved in artificial immersion tanks or at the homes of the people.
7) The idols should not be over 4 feet high in case of mandals, and for homes, it should not be over 2 feet in height.
8) The arrival or the immersion of the idols, processions have been prohibited, and immersion itself has been not allowed in containment zones.
9) There should be no gathering for bhajan, kirtan or aarti events, and online media and cable network should be used for celebrations, wherever possible.
10) Mandals would have to take permission from local authorities to host public gatherings.
11) Mandap must be set up according to the regulations laid down by local authorities, civic bodies or as per the directives of the Bombay HC.
12) Sanitisation and thermal screening have been made mandatory for mandals, which would not be allowed to serve drinks or food.
13) Over five volunteers would be allowed to remain present in a mandal at a time.
14) Crowding has been discouraged for Ravana dahan, for which the state will provide live screening.
SOPs issued by the West Bengal government:
1) Pandals this year should be spacious and should be kept open from all sides.
2) If it is essential to have a closed ceiling, the sides will be kept open; if the sides have to be blocked, the ceiling needs to be kept open.
3) Maintaining adequate social distance among visitors, starting from the beginning till immersion is mandatory.
4) Organisers will be required to make adequate arrangements for distribution of masks in close vicinity to the pandals.
5) Organisers need to ensure that hand sanitizer is available and that the visitors compulsorily use them while in the pandal premises.
6) Rituals such as sindoor khela, pushpanjali, and prasad distribution needs to be organised in small groups and with spaced out timings.
7) People are encouraged to bring flowers from home for pushpanjali.
8) Arrangements need to be in place so that people can visit the pandal premises from the day of Tritiya, i.e., three days prior to the start of five-day festival.
9) Cultural programmes will also not be allowed in or near pandal premises.
SOPs issued by the Delhi government:
1) Prohibition on holding rallies, processions or exhibitions or setting up food stalls inside and outside the venue.
2) Capacity of each site will be decided on the basis of the area and social distancing norms (a) In closed space, a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity will be allowed, with a ceiling of 200 persons, and (b) In open spaces, keeping the size of the ground /space in the view, and with the strict observance of social distancing norms.
3) Separate entry and exit points for functions/pandals.
4) Entry without face mask is prohibited. This rule implies to staff as well.
5) Only sitting on chairs will be allowed to keep social distancing in mind. At all events related to festivities, no person will be allowed in a standing or squatting position.
6) Organisers will have to do videography of their event each day and submit to the district magistrate at the end of the day to ensure full compliance to Covid-19 norms.
7) Events are permitted only outside containment zones.
8) All events must plan for medical care arrangements with linkages to nearest hospitals in case of health emergencies.