Chhath Puja was performed on Wednesday evening and there were many violations such as devotees turning up for rituals without masks, organising processions and bursting firecrackers. The Telegraph visited some of the ghats where worshippers performed rituals at dawn on Wednesday.
Masks were a rarity. Only a handful of people headed towards Babughat or coming back from the ghat had their face coverings on. The scene was similar around an artificial pond in Panditiya off Triangular Park in south Kolkata.
At the entry to Babughat, some policemen stopped devotees without masks. A man handed surgical masks to them. “We have brought with us many masks and are handing them to people who do not have one. We are also making announcements asking people to wear masks,” said Suraj Kumar Gupta, a member of Calcutta Sahu Samaj that had set up a kiosk outside Babughat.
Firecrackers were burst, not on thoroughfares but in lanes. As it happened on Kali Puja and Diwali, it was hard to spot someone lighting a firecracker on a main road but the sound of firecrackers being burst frequently was audible.
Standing outside Calcutta High Court around 6.15pm, one could hear sounds of firecrackers.
Only green fireworks could be lit, from 6pm to 8pm, on the occasion of Chhath.
“Those who are bursting firecrackers are not Chhath worshippers,” said a worshipper.
Processions were banned by Calcutta High Court but devotees still organised processions, even in the presence of policemen.
About 60 people walked in a procession along Panditiya Road after performing rituals at an artificial tank there. There were policemen at an intersection on the way but none made any attempt to stop the march.
Calcutta High Court had in 2020 banned all processions during Chhath Puja and said only two persons per family would be allowed to perform rituals.
An officer of Kolkata police had said on Tuesday that it could be practically impossible to stop processions.
Rabindra Sarobar was spared the assault this year as no Chhath devotee turned up at the 192-acre park on Wednesday. The National Green Tribunal has banned all kinds of religious functions at the Sarobar. Back in 2019, worshippers had broken locks and performed rituals on the lake premises.
“We have readied 37 ghats for devotees who used to come to Rabindra Sarobar,” said an official of Kolkata Municipal Development Authority.
Chhath Puja rituals were banned at Subhas Sarobar off EM Bypass in northeast Kolkata, too.
Both Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar were closed on Wednesday and would open at 6pm on Thursday. Walkers will be able to enter the parks only at 6am on Friday.
A large number of police personnel were present at the ghats and also on the roads leading to the ghats, especially along the Hooghly. However, on most occasions, police were mere spectators.
A police officer said they had prosecuted several people for bursting firecrackers. “We have taken action against those who burst firecrackers,” said the officer.
“Our main target was to ensure that no one came with DJ or played loud music and also that no one could enter the ghats with firecrackers. We were successful in preventing people from entering ghats without masks and with firecrackers,” the officer said.