From Easter to Eid, Ganeshotsav and Durga Puja, how festivals were observed in a locked down year

Occasions that had hitherto brought people together had to be ‘celebrated’ in a socially distanced manner, devoid of many of the comforting customs of the past.

FP Staff March 28, 2021 20:01:44 IST
From Easter to Eid, Ganeshotsav and Durga Puja, how festivals were observed in a locked down year

Old Hyderabad wears a deserted look during Ramzan 2020, in stark contrast to the usual festive bustle. Photo © Vinay Kumar

At Firstpost, we’ve been reviewing a year since the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown through stories from our culture archives.

We’ve previously looked at how artists and cultural institutions responded to the crisis; followed by communities — the people and places — that were disproportionately impacted; and most recently encapsulated the essays, series and projects which attempted to document and parse meaning from unprecedented circumstances.

In the final part of our retrospective, we’re looking at how festivals were observed after the lockdown — where occasions that had hitherto brought people together had to be ‘celebrated’ in a socially distanced manner, devoid of many of the comforting customs of the past.

— Easter in the time of coronavirus was marked by empty churches and unused communion hosts, reflecting a world where prayer has gone online.

As countries around the world starting urging people to stay at home amid the coronavirus outbreak, and India announced its 21-day lockdown, priests and other clergy had to suddenly befriend that familiar beast, technology, ahead of Easter, Joanna Lobo wrote. Read the essay here.

— As the Thrissur Pooram was cancelled last April, we asked what the festival meant to a city and its people.

Susheela Nair wrote, ‘One has to be here during Pooram to experience the fierce pride of Trichurians in their glorious heritage, which they jealously guard. Gripped by Pooram fever, the conversation of the festival’s fans revolves around only elephants, music, colour and rhythm, decorations, fireworks relating to the festival. When we would stroll around the Swaraj Round, we’d hear their endless discussions and arguments over the beauty, majesty and size of the black-eyed, black-haired beauties that the contending parties mustered for the festival.’ Read it here.

Capping a quiet Ramzan, this Eid was unlike any other in recent memory. But in homes across India, families managed to keep the ethos of the festival alive.

Mallik Thatipalli reported on how Hyderabad’s Old City, with the Charminar, Mecca Masjid and centuries-old Laad Bazaar, has long been the nerve centre of commerce, shopping and festivities during Ramzan. But these once boisterous streets were eerily quiet during the lockdown. Read here.

Firstpost compiled a visual record of Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in India under lockdown, as captured by eight photographers. The photographers are Masrat Zahra (Srinagar); Hashim Maqbool (Sopore); Tehreem Fatima (Delhi); Muhammed Shaikh, Aslam Saiyad, Zahra Amiruddin and Hashim Badani (Mumbai); Taha Ahmad (Lucknow). View here.

— Pune’s Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav dialled down the festivity amid the COVID crisis, but the legacy of the city’s pandals was undimmed.

Pune’s mandals didn’t just devise ways to celebrate Ganeshotsav in simple, safe ways last August. Aishwarya Sahasrabudhe reported how they stepped up to distribute food in their corresponding localities and collaborated to set up a COVID-19 centre, actions that speak to the essence of the festival as envisaged by Tilak. Read the story here.

— Durga Puja in the time of COVID posed a conundrum for Kolkata’s sarbojanik pandals: keep out the faithful, for the welfare of the community.

Durga Puja is not just a time of revelry, the climax of Kolkata’s cultural calendar. It’s also a huge economic high point, wrote Sandip Roy, elaborating on the mutually dependent relationship between the city and the festival, and how this relationship was being impacted by the pandemic. Read it here.

Meanwhile, Firstpost’s Suryasarathi Bhattacharya did a deep-dive into how the imagery and messaging for Durga Puja underwent a shift as Kolkata’s creative industries contended with COVID’s impact. View it here.

— Goa ‘crib-hopped’ in smaller numbers in 2020, but without losing its spirit and thrust on social dialogue.

2020’s Christmas nativity scenes or ‘cribs’ felt the COVID-19 impact. They are usually funded by generous donors, some of whom are ‘shippies’ (Goans working on ships/cruise lines) while others are settled abroad. In 2020, the loss of income and jobs reduced donations. Cribs tend to get a lot of visitors but in times of social distancing, many took the decision to not crib-hop. This resulted in a sharp decrease in cribs or downsized versions of them. The visitors were fewer too; everyone had masks on while maintaining a distance. Story here.

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