The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday placed restrictions on Chhath Puja processions across the state of West Bengal, setting curbs on the number of people per family who can enter a water body to offer the puja. The court ordered that only two members per family can gather for rituals on the banks of rivers and other water bodies.
Besides, devotees are prohibited from entering the largest two lakes with the city, Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar. The order came on the heels of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directive that had banned Chhath Puja at Rabindra Sarobar.
“As far as the Subhas Sarobar and Rabindra Sarobar are concerned, in view of the subsisting order of the NGT, these water bodies will be totally out of bounds for Chhath Puja celebrations,” the Calcutta high court said.
Only two members of the family will be allowed to participate in the Chhath Puja rituals while other family members will have to observe the Chhath Puja from home or in and around their home. The court order also mandates wearing masks at all stages. Devotees who would partake in the upcoming celebrations are asked to travel in open vehicles. The state government has been directed by the court to enforce Section 144 of the CrPC to restrict the number of people in any area amidst the festivities.
“The court has banned Chhath Puja processions. Only two persons from a family can enter any water body to perform the puja. Devotees coming in vehicles will have to maintain social distance and not all will be allowed to get down,” a high court advocate as quoted by Hindustan Times said.
Enforce a strict ban on fireworks: Calcutta High Court to State Government
The court had also affirmed the earlier order of a strictly enforced ban on firecrackers in the forthcoming festivities. Earlier this month, Calcutta High Court had banned the bursting of crackers during all pujas, including Kali Puja, Diwali and Chhath Puja.
The division bench of the Calcutta High Court, comprising of justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee, cited the health hazards posed by the bursting of crackers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and instructed the state government to rigorously implement the firecrackers ban.
Also, the police have been asked to ensure that no crackers are sold or used in Kolkata as they have already been till November 30 by the High Court and the National Green Tribunal.
The court has also called upon the state government to take a call on the curbs that need to be put in place on local trains during the festive days so as to avert crowd surge.
Is participating in procession an integral part of Chhath Puja rituals?
The procession associated with Chhath Puja is not an intrinsic part of the rituals related to the festival. Devotees who celebrate Chhath Puja do so even on the roof of their house or in their courtyard. Though gathering in a group has community significance but given the sheer level of pollution in water bodies, many devotees choose to dig a small pool around their preferred area and perform the puja there. Some of them even use plastic inflated pools to perform the ceremony. A part of the rituals involve offering the Sandhya puja to the setting sun from water, so in many places, devotees with family members gather around the women observing fast and accompany them to the water bodies.
The HC order only bans gatherings and large congregations around water bodies. As such, there is no blanket ban on the festivities and rituals associated.