Ulhasnagar Sikhs show the way with headphones bhajan

Updated: Nov 22, 2018, 12:29 IST | Anamika Gharat

Devotees wear headphones for 3 am satsang during the 43-day period to observe Guru Nanak Jayanti; local residents welcome move

The citizens' group now listen to bhajans on their headphones
The citizens' group now listen to bhajans on their headphones

Residents living around Gol Maidan in Ulhasnagar used to dread the 43 days in November and December, when they would be jarred out of their sleep at 3 am every day by the sound of bhajans blaring from loudspeakers. This year, however, the organisers have decided to be mindful of the residents' woes and have provided every person attending the meet a pair of headphones on which to listen to the bhajans.

Every year, the Amritvela Trust of Ulhasnagar organises a 43-day bhajan-kirtan meet on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti that falls on November 23. Around 10,000 to 15,000 people attend this meet every year from Mumbai and Thane. This year, the meet started on November 11.

The residents have local resident and social activist Sarita Khanchandani to thank for this development. Khanchandani had filed a petition in Bombay High Court last year against the Amritvela Group for causing noise pollution early in the morning. She said, "They earlier used to conduct these bhajan meets on a small scale, but from 2015 their followers increased and they started using the huge Gol Maidan in Ulhasnagar. The sound caused during this meet made it impossible for people to get a good night's sleep for a month-and-a-half. Most people have to go to work the next day and need their sleep."

Sarita Khanchandani
Sarita Khanchandani

She added, "While we respect all religions, observing it should not inconvenience others. After my petition in 2017, the group has started using headphones to listen to their bhajans." An Amritvela Group member, Bobby Arora, said, "We decided to use headphones keeping in mind the inconvenience caused to residents living nearby. Last year, we had tried this as a pilot and this year the almost 15,000 people who will join us will have headphones with which to listen to bhajans. It is free of cost."

He added, "Our trust hands out the headphones at the entrance and everyone hands them back at the end of the session. People have liked this new idea very much. Many government officials, too, have appreciated our initiative as there are no more complaints from citizens like there used to be every year." The headphones have been bought with the donations that the trust receives, Arora said, adding that the trust was a very big name in Punjab.

Aarti Jaiswal, a resident of the Ulhasnagar area where this meet is held, said, "It is good to be tolerant and inclusive, considering how many religions we have in our county. But, being jolted out of our sleep at 3am for 45 days is expecting too much from us. We are extremely happy to hear about the devotees being given headphones. The meet is now conducted peacefully to everyone's satisfaction. An Amritvela group member told us that they started using headphones so that residents did not have to suffer anymore. Now, I, too, would like to join them at least one day this year."

Pratik Mulchandani, another resident, said, "It is such a huge relief. Handling the loud sound every morning for 45 days used to be very hard. We have suffered for years because of this. I am very happy to see that they have come up with a fantastic solution to ensure everyone is happy."

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