Bengaluru, Nov 13 : The festival of lights — Diwali began on a muted note across Karnataka on Friday due to the Covid pandemic playing spoilsport and the state government ban on bursting conventional fire crackers.
“It is for the first time in many years that the most important Hindu festival, celebrated over 3-4 days across the state, began on a subdued note, as the coronavirus since mid-March not only disrupted normal life, but also wreaked havoc with livelihood. Diwali is celebrated in a simple way this time,” state Kannada culture department official Muralidhar Rao told IANS here.
Though the festival is religiously celebrated to mark the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh after victory over demon Ravan in Lanka, it is an auspicious occasion for Hindus to renovate their homes, wear new clothes, lit earthen lamps, eat delicious dishes, including sweets and burst crackers.
“Like all other festivals since April, including Dasara, Ganesh Chaturthi, Janmashtami and Ugadi, Diwali celebration is also subdued due to Covid-induced restrictions and ban on gatherings in public places to maintain social distancing,” Rao said.
Covid-induced restrictions on religious and cultural activities have also prevented celebrating Diwali with pomp and pageantry. Loss of business, jobs and incomes over the last 7-8 months have prevented thousands of people from spending more on festivals this year.
“Sale of gold and diamond jewellery on Dhanteras has been 50 per cent less than last year due to Covid blues and price of the yellow metal ruling above Rs 50,000 per 10 gms,” Dhavanam Jewellers’ manager said here.
In the Bengaluru market, 24-carat gold increased Rs 270 per 10 gms to Rs 51,760 on Friday from Rs 51,490 on Thursday when pre-Danteras sales began on a subdued note.
Gold prices have shot up 35 per cent from Rs 38,096 per 10 gms on Dhanteras in October 2019, while silver prices have increased to Rs 62,000 per kg from Rs 40,000 per kg in 2019.
“There is more demand for bullion (gold coins) and gold biscuits for saving than wearing due to Covid-induced economic hardship people are facing and jewellery prices ruling high,” Karnataka Jewellers Association president T.A. Sharavana told IANS.
Though buying sentiment has improved since the unlocking of the economy began in phases, the priority has been on spending for living rather than on celebrating festivals like Dasara and Diwali this year.
“As wearing a face mask and maintaining physical distance are mandatory, the footfalls in malls and markets have been less than normal, as people are still wary of going out for shopping even for festival purchases,” added Rao.
The festival will begin on Saturday as Choti Diwali on Naraka Chaturdashi and conclude on Monday with Balipadyami after Badi Diwali on Sunday.
In a related development, state Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa greeted the people on the occasion of Deepavali.
“May the festival of lights brighten the lives of people with prosperity, happiness, peace and good health,” said Yediyurappa in a message.
The Chief Minister also wished the state would be free from the pandemic for normal life to return soon so that people could live in peace.
“Let us celebrate an eco-friendly festival by lighting lamps,” he added.
In a related development, the state government said in an order that people can burst green crackers for 2 hours from 8-10 pm on festival days, as the eco-friendly crackers emit 30 percent less of the particulate matter and their noise level is below 125 decibels compared to conventional fire crackers.