Raksha Bandhan celebrations remained subdued this year as the rampaging coronavirus pandemic cast a shadow over the festivities, that celebrate the brother-sister bond, with people mostly preferring to stay at home.
People relied on homemade sweets and some rituals moved online, with siblings ordering rakhis and e-gifts for each other and meeting through video calls.
“This is the first time that it has happened, but this is the need of the hour,” said Rahul Bhardwaj, a resident of the national capital, who could not meet his sister who lives in a different city.
“We need to keep ourselves safe and our loved ones safe too.”
On Monday, India reported 52,972 coronavirus cases and 771 fatalities, taking the overall figures to 18,03,695 infections and 38,135 deaths, according to the health ministry data. There are 5,79,357 active cases, while the recoveries have increased to 11,86,203.
“The festival was a bit different this year. I got homemade barfi for my brothers and did not buy anything from outside. We are also not going anywhere and just spending time with our family,” said Shivani Rawat of Delhi.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders greeted the people on the occasion.
The President celebrated the festival with members of the nursing community at Rashtrapati Bhavan, describing them as saviours who are risking their own lives in the line of duty to save others.
Naidu said he missed his “dear sister” Sushma Swaraj a lot on this Raksha Bandhan. Former External Affairs Minister Swaraj died on August 6 last year.
Legendry singer Lata Mangeshkar shared a special audio message with the PM on the occasion, wishing him well. In his response, the PM said her message “filled me with immense inspiration and energy”.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is in a hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus, tweeted, “Heartfelt greetings to the people of the country on the auspicious occasion of Raksha Bandhan.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also wished everyone. His sister and the party’s general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said she is proud to have a brother like Rahul Gandhi.
“My best wishes to all the countrymen on Raksha Bandhan,” she tweeted.
But as people remained at home, with the fears of contracting the virus running deeper than ever, industry sources estimated severe losses to shopkeepers.
“Sweets worth around Rs 10,000 crore were sold across the country on Raksha Bandhan last year. This figure is expected to come down to around Rs 5,000 crore this time,” the director of the Federation of Sweets and Namkeen Manufacturers, Feroz H. Naqvi, had told PTI on Snnday.
Samir Saha, a roadside vendor in In West Bengal’s Shyambazar, said, “Last year, I had earned Rs 5,000 selling rakhis. This time, I managed to earn just Rs 1,000. The pandemic has hit us hard.”
Some people, however, celebrated the festival in symbolically unique ways.
Animal lovers tied ‘rakhis’ to two elephants in Jalpaiguri district and vowed to protect them “as many of them are dying in man-animal conflict”.
In Odisha, acclaimed sand artiste Sudarsan Pattnaik created a mural on Puri beach as a tribute to COVID-19 warriors. “Let’s celebrate this #RakshaBandhan with #CovidWarriors, those are working tirelessly day and night for us,” he said in a Twitter post.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar tied a ‘rakhi’ around a tree at a park, while women Congress MLAs in Rajasthan celebrated the festival by tying rakhis on the wrist of CM Ashok Gehlot.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at a Bhopal hospital, shared on Twitter a picture of a rakhi tied on his wrist by nurse Saroj who is attending to him in the isolation ward.
Tribal residents in Mumbai’s forested Aarey Colony, a prominent green lung of Mumbai and the site of a metro car shed, vowed to protect trees by tying them ‘rakhis’ on the occasion.