In view of the rising Covid-19 cases in Bangladesh, authorities have cancelled the traditional Rash Mela. The crowd-pulling festival was scheduled to begin on Sunday on Dublar Char Island near the Sundarbans.
Hundreds of Hindu devotees have already entered the area for the three-day festival through five selected routes, officials said on Saturday, adding that they would, however, be allowed to take the holy dip.
Mohammad Belayet Hossain, Divisional Forest Officer of Sundarbans (east zone), said, "In the wake of the worsening Covid-19 situation, the authorities concerned have decided to refrain from holding the traditional Rush Mela at Alorkol."
"Only Hindu devotees will be allowed to take the holy dip and conduct the warship programme during the three days. However, no people from other religions will be allowed to enter the area," he said.
The authorities had earlier issued directives, asking devotees to get their pass from forest stations and carry their national identity cards as well. "All the devotees will have to maintain social distancing and other Covid protocols like wearing masks and sanitising their hands at frequent intervals," the DFO said.
Local fishermen were also asked to complete their fishing activities by November 25, he added.
Joint general secretary of Rash Utshab Udjapon Committee, Pradeep Basu Santu, said, "The Rash festival has been taking place in Dublar Char for the past 200 years and this year, the authorities have taken preparations to hold a low-key event due to the Covid-19 pandemic."
Though generally some 50-60 thousand devotees and visitors throng the island for the festival every year, this year only 10-15 thousand people will come to perform their rituals there, he added.
Every year, not only Hindus, people from other religions also come to the island to enjoy the mela. Cultural programmes are also arranged on the occasion.
Rash Purnima, the day of full moon in the Bangla month of Kartik (late autumn), is celebrated as the moment of union of Hindu god Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha.
Last year, the traditional Rush Mela was suspended due to Cyclone Bulbul.