Like last year, many committees have decided to either go for virtual celebrations or organise the puja with a limited number of people, mostly members.
New Delhi: It’s the time of the year when the sweet fragrance of the ‘shiuli’ flowers, that blossom around this time, blends with the autumn breeze to herald Durga Puja, the annual occasion when goddess Durga is commemorated for conquering the demon king Mahishasura in a fight, exemplifying the victory of good over evil.
Apart from being a religious festival for the Hindus, it is also an occasion for reunion and rejuvenation, and a celebration of traditional culture and customs, marked with great enthusiasm and zeal in the states of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Odisha and Bihar. The festival holds great significance for the devotees, as they pray to the different avatars of goddess Durga each day during the nine-day celebration, known as Navratri. While the rituals entail nine days of fast, feast and worship, the last four days–Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami–are celebrated with much gaiety and grandeur in India and abroad, especially in Bengal.
As the festive week of Navratri approaches fast, devotees are looking forward to celebrating Durga Puja with great enthusiasm. However, the spirit of the auspicious festival will once again be dampened this year, due to the Covid-induced restrictions.
Last year, many people missed the grandeur of puja as several governments had allowed Durga Puja committees to conduct the rituals but did not allow visitors to the pandals. Similarly, Dussehra too was allowed in a few locations with a cap on visitors, and enforcement teams were deployed at the venues.
This year, in Delhi, the DDMA (Delhi Disaster Management Authority) has allowed Durga Puja celebrations, but only with strict adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines issued by the government in this regard.
While some puja committees have cancelled the celebrations, some have decided to do a ‘Ghot Puja’ (worshipping an urn symbolising the goddess). Like last year, many committees have decided to either go for virtual celebrations or organise the puja with a limited number of people, mostly members. Only a few committees like the Chittaranjan Park Kali Mandir Society, Matri Mandir Samity, and some others will perform the puja.
Speaking about how the celebrations will ensue this year, Sujit Das, manager, Matri Mandir Samity, Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave said, “Last year due to Covid, we were not able to do much and only did the Ghot Puja, similarly, this year too we are not doing anything on a big scale. This time we will be preparing a small murti so that the place doesn’t get overcrowded. Apart from this, in order to adhere to the issued guidelines, sanitisation will be done at the entry point and anyone without masks won’t be allowed to enter.”
He further also divulged that neither food vendors nor the Bhog distribution will be part of the festivities this year, but a livestream will be done on his committee’s Facebook page, similar to the previous year. Some organising committees will be delivering door-to-door Bhog for people.
Since not all devotees will be able to participate in puja celebrations, Durga Puja committees are making sure that they aren’t deprived of the festivities. Evening aartis and all other puja rituals will be live-streamed on the social media pages of different committees.
Chittaranjan Park (CR Park), known for its large Bengali community, will also be celebrating this year in a muted manner as only 50 people will be allowed inside at a time. “There will CCTV monitoring done to ensure that at a time not more than 50 people are allowed inside,” said Utpal Ghosh, former president of Puja committee and also a resident of CR Park who was associated with the committee earlier.
In a closed space, the event can be run with a 50 per cent capacity and not more than 200 people are allowed. The maximum number of people will be decided according to the rules of area and social distance in the open space.
Utpal further continued and added, “Also, since the time left for the preparation is very less, hence celebrations mostly will be a low-key event as making the pandal and doing the decorations will be a difficult task in such a short time.”
“All in all, since the puja has to happen, it will be performed, but mostly the Bhog will not be there, maybe some people will distribute prasad at the exit. The majority of the committees will distribute the Bhog door to door,” concluded Utpal.
Overall, because unprecedented times require unprecedented action, Durga Puja will not be celebrated with pomp and show this year, as it was the previous year.
Furthermore, during the second Covid wave, Delhi was one of the most infected cities in the country, and several lives were lost as a result hence this will also be a reason behind the low-key celebration of the festival.
The festival season will commence with Navratri starting in October and Durga Puja being celebrated during the same time. Following that Dussehra will fall on October 15 and Diwali on November 4.