VADODARA: Vipul Thakar, a priest at Chanod in Vadodara district, witnesses a rush of devotees during the pious Kartak and Chaitra months of Gujarati calendar as people perform the ‘Narayan Bali’ rituals for the salvation of their ancestors during these two months.
Even as the Chaitra month is still a week away, Thakar has been remaining busy for the past few months as the village, popularly known as Prayagraj of south, has been flooded with rush of devotees as people are thronging to the ‘triveni sangam’ of Narmada, Orsang and Gupt Saraswati rivers here for the post-death rituals of their kins.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not only changed the lifestyles of people but also the way the age-old post-death rituals have to be performed by the kin of the deceased. Earlier, the rituals which used to be performed at home in presence of relatives and close friends are now being preferred to be done at Chanod in presence of just minimal number of people.
“The 12th and 13th day rituals are very important in Hindu culture, but due to the fear of coronavirus only a few people of the family come here and perform all rituals on a single day,” said Thakar.
Another priest said that earlier people used to visit Chanod only for immersion of ashes. “But as the cases are increasing, people living in the city do not prefer to gather their relatives or call the priest at home. Instead, a few people whose presence in the rituals are necessary, come and leave after the ceremonies are over,” he added.
With the rising number of devotees, the boatmen too are seeing a surge in their incomes.
“After the lockdown, we were operating only 50 out of 100 boats in two shifts so that Covid protocols are followed, but lately the number of devotees has risen, so we are operating 45 boats in one shift,” said Jignesh Machhi, the treasurer of Navik Shramjivi Mandal.
He added that the boatmen were anticipating a drop in income due to the pandemic, but the scenario has changed in the last couple of months. “In January, we used to ferry 1,000 people daily but now we are getting at least 1,500 people daily and the number drastically increases on Sunday and Thursday,” Machhi said.

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