Kolkata, March 9 (IANS) West Bengal on Monday celebrated the spring carnival or ‘Dol’ with colours, songs, prayers and distribution of sweets, even as fear of coronavirus cast its shadow over the festivities.
The biggest casualty was the ‘Basantotsav’ (spring celebration) at Shantiniketan in Birbhum district, housing the Central government run Visva-Bharati University. For the first time in its history, the authorities put the festival on hold in view of a University Grants Commission advisory asking varsities not to hold mass gatherings to prevent any possible coronavirus outbreak.
Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore had reintroduced ‘Dol’ as spring festival in the Visva Bharati University founded by him. Over the decades, the festival has become the biggest annual event of the institution, attracting thousands of people from various parts of India and abroad.
On Monday, Shantinketan looked desolate, bereft of any colour. The main gate of the university was locked, and the adjacent road stood barricaded.
However, that did not deter a large number of tourists from India and abroad who immersed themselves in the festival in the Khowai-Sonajuri area, some distance apart.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) celebrated the day as the 534th birth anniversay of Vaishnav saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at its global headquarters in Nadia district’s Mayapur, about 130 km from Kolkata.
Close to one lakh tourists, comprising devotees from 90 countries, assembled in Mayapur for the festival, also christened ‘Gaur Purnima’ celebrations.
An ISKCON spokesman said that precautionary measures as prescribed by the state government were being undertaken through proper screening of the people visiting the temple campus.
In the metropolis, people exchanged sweets and pleasantries and smeared each other with ‘abir’ (coloured powder).
Celebrities from the tinsel world, eminent singers and other cultural personalities and politicians immersed themselves in the festival in a big way.
Mmebers of Tala Park Pratyay club in north Kolkata took part in the festival of colours wearing masks to ward off any danger of coronavirus.
“It is a precautionary measure. At the same time, we want to increase awareness among the people on ways to prevent the disease,” said a masked youth.
In parts of the state, the festival is marked by placing the idol of Krishna and Radha on a picturesquely decorated palanquin, which is carried by the devotees around the town.