With New Delhi battling a heated controversy over a Supreme Court ban on the sale of crackers for Diwali, there comes another one from West Bengal, where the Darjeeling district administration has banned the celebration of Chhat Puja on the banks of river Mahananda, which flows through Siliguri town, citing environmental reasons.
Abiding by the National Green Tribunal decree, the District Magistrate of Darjeeling has ordered a ban on Chhat Puja rituals this year to prevent the river being recklessly polluted by waste dumps along its bank.
On 10th October, the district administration imposed restrictions against all illegal construction of ghats, near the river premises and issued directions about not polluting the area. In the latest development, District Magistrate Joyoshi Dasgupta has ordered that the construction of ghats, as reported by NewsX be at least three feet away from the flowing river. The report also mentions that the administration has ordered a ban on disposing of any flowers or puja material inside the river, so as to not damage the river’s ecosystem.
The people of Siliguri and Kurseong subdivision, areas through which river Mahananda flows, have been asked not to obstruct the flow of river water in any way.
However, rivers and other water bodies play an important role for Chhat Puja celebrations. People celebrating the festival regard bathing and offering flowers to the water bodies, specifically rivers, as auspicious as they offer their prayers to the sun god.
Chhat Puja is celebrated across the eastern states of Jharkhand and Bihar, along with certain portions of Uttar Pradesh. Needless to say, the river banks across the entire eastern regions of India see great turnout of families, including men and women, who take part in their biggest festival of the year.
The ban imposed on the worshipers have irked them to a great extent as they think it to be a direct assault on their religious rights. According to the president of Bihari Yuva Chetna Samiti, Mithilesh Mishra:
The ban is totally unfair, the river should not be polluted but there are other ways to ensure its clean Chhath is a festival which promotes cleanliness and if by decorating and constructing ghats river is getting damaged than the committee will ensure the river will be cleaned but the ban is not justified.