Hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, organisers of the wildly popular Dahi Handi festival in Mumbai have started canceling celebrations that are synonymous with the city.
Mumbai has been reporting an average of almost 1,200 COVID-19 cases daily for the past week and is fighting hard to contain its spread.
"Dahi Handi celebrations to not take place in Mumbai's Ghatkopar this year in view of #COVID19 spread," tweeted Ram Kadam, head of the festival's Ghatkopar organising committee, who is also a BJP leader.
Dahi Handi celebrations to not take place in Mumbai's Ghatkopar this year in view of #COVID19 spread: Ram Kadam, BJP leader and Head of Organising Committee— ANI (@ANI) June 19, 2020
The celebration in the suburban Ghatkopar area is among the most famous in the city. Big cash prizes offered for successfully breaking pots of churned butter hung at great heights pull in huge crowds of athletic participants, residents and Bollywood celebrities on Janmashtami.
The festival will be celebrated on August 11 this year.
Recently, Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik cancelled celebrations in Thane. Mr Sarnaik heads the Sanskruti Yuva Prathishthan, which finds mention in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest nine-tier human formation.
Dahi Handi organising committees started announcing cancellations in the past week when the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra was organised in Odisha with a curfew in place. Though only those priests and temple attendees participated in the procession - an historic first - visuals showed large crowds had gathered outside the iconic temple in Puri.
NCP Leader and Housing Minister Jitendra Ahwad and Shiv Sena Leader Sachin Ahir also organize popular Dahi Handis that see massive crowds.
Sachin Ahir's event at Jamboree Maidan in Worli and Jitendra Ahwad's event in Panchpakahadi, Thane, may also be scrapped this year with government restrictions in place prohibiting all religious and political congregations.
Social distancing critical to avoid infection is impossible in Dahi Handi, which involves team members climbing over each other to reach the suspended earthenware pot to win the prize.