Civic body to issue guidelines for Ganesha festival

Three festivals that are marked by large public gatherings – Bakr Eid, Ganesha festival and Muharram – are lined up in August, a concern during the pandemic when social distancing has become the new normal.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has appealed to citizens to stay indoors on Varamahalakshmi and not to visit temples.

While the State government has issued detailed guidelines, including a ban on Eidgah prayers for Bakr Eid on July 31-August 1, it is yet to take a call on the modalities for celebration of Ganesha festival on August 22 and observing Muharram on August 29.

Guidelines issued by A.B. Ibrahim, secretary, Minority Welfare, Haj and Wakf, ban mass prayers in Eidgah maidans and other public places. Prayers can be offered only in masjids before 8 a.m. with not more than 50 people, maintaining social distancing and taking all precautions. Those wanting to take part in the prayers should mandatorily bring their own prayer mats. The customary hug to wish each other will not be possible this year.

Slaughter of animals has been banned at all public places and will be allowed only in slaughter-houses. Unlike before, BBMP has restricted the sale of sheep to certain designated venues, all on the outskirts of the city.

“While Muharram is also a public event, it does not lead to large crowds, like Bakr Eid, especially in urban areas. We are working on Muharram-specific guidelines, which will be issued in the coming weeks,” Mr. Ibrahim said.

The State government is yet to take a call on Ganesha festivities. “The Ministry of Home Affairs is expected to come out with guidelines for pandals across the country. We are waiting for that,” said a senior government functionary.

While several experts have reportedly advised the State government to completely ban public celebration of the festival this year, the issue has become a politically sensitive matter for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sources said.

“A section of the ruling party is against a ban on public festivities and only wants it regulated through social distancing and other norms. The State government seems to be waiting for a cue from the MHA,” a senior official told The Hindu.

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