Ban on firecrackers takes the bang out of Ramlila celebrations

Biggest events likely to be cancelled as authorities yet to communicate guidelines

The biggest, oldest and most popular Ramlila events that the Capital has been hosting for decades, in some cases for centuries, are likely to be cancelled entirely this year.

The organisers, who had agreed to keep the celebrations low-key last year in the wake on the COVID-19 pandemic, seem determined to call off the events, blaming the authorities for “not issuing guidelines in time and imposing a total ban on the bursting of firecrackers of all makes and varieties, including ‘green crackers’”.

The “mismanagement”, said the organisers, has left them with limited to non-existent alternatives for Ramlila celebrations, which are supposed to start from October 6. A handful of them, however, are hopeful of pulling off smaller, single-day events for the sake of continuity.

According to the organisers, an estimated 700 events are planned across the city every year at varying scales, of which around a hundred are the biggest and among the oldest in the country.

The over 170-year-old Ramlila organised by the Shri Ramlila Committee (SRC) in central Delhi, with its origins in Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s decision to patronise the event during his reign, is among those likely to be cancelled, along with other big and popular events.

“On the one hand, there isn’t enough time to make the arrangements since the guidelines are yet to be communicated to the organisers; on the other, given the ban on firecrackers, a quality display during the Ramlila is not possible,” said Rajesh Khanna, general secretary, SRC.

“They (authorities) have made it impossible for us to organise the Ramlila. It feels like this is precisely what they wanted in the first place; had that not been the case, they would have spoken to us well in advance,” he said.

‘Not enough time’

Satish Aggarwal from East Delhi’s Shri Balaji Ramlila Committee said there was neither enough time to collect contributions for the event nor a way to tide over the prohibition on the use of firecrackers.

“We were able to pull off the celebrations last year on a relatively smaller but still adequate scale. That doesn’t seem possible at all this year. In a way, it [cancelling events] seems to be the right thing to do; not many have the heart to seek contributions from homes which have lost one member or more to COVID,” he said.

Ashok Goel Devraha, general secretary of Delhi Dharmik Sangh, an umbrella body of Ramlila organisers in the city, said events would be organised for the sake of continuity, no matter the scale.

“Whether we organise them at home or with just the families of committee members in attendance, we will organise the event in honour of Lord Ram. In Pitampura, for instance, we will organise a single-day Sampoorna (complete) Ramlila and use electronic effects to simulate fireworks,” said Mr. Goel, who is also the president of Shri Keshav Ramlila organised at Netaji Subhash Place.

Anil Sharma of the R.K. Puram Ramlila Religious Committee said its members would meet on Thursday to take a final call. “No matter how small the celebration is, we will do something to mark the occasion,” he said.

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