Durga Puja celebrations in full-swing amid strict Covid guidelines

Kolkata (IANS)┬áCelebrations of Durga Puja, the biggest festival of the Bengali’s, are in full-swing across the state with people engaging in merriment in a safe manner on the occasion of Maha Ashtami due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Though devotees did not queue up to offer prayers at various pandals this year, in order to maintain necessary social distancing protocols, but they soaked in the festive spell mostly with families and close friends.

This year Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami fell on the same day, on Saturday. It is considered to be the most auspicious day in the ten-day Durga Puja.

“We are facing an unprecedented challenge this year. Due to novel Coronavirus pandemic, we couldn’t allow devotees inside puja pandals. Ashtami puja, Anjali and Sandhi Puja were also performed with utmost restrictions,” said Mallar Mitra, a puja organiser in Kolkata’s twin district Howrah.

Mitra said their organisation was following the Calcutta High Court’s guidelines for maintaining health and safety of every resident in Bengal.

Earlier, the court had directed all puja pandals to strictly maintain ‘a no entry zone’ guidelines for all other purposes. It said the list of persons allowed should be decided on daily basis. These lists must be put outside the pandals every day at 8 a.m.

The original order was modified in the aspects that charts may include 30 names for smaller puja pandals but not more than 15 people can enter inside the pandal at a time. Similarly, 60 names for larger puja pandals but not more than 45 people can remain or stay inside the pandal at a time.

Later, the Calcutta High Court had partially relaxed the order after Durgotsav Forum – an umbrella body of 400-strong Durga Puja organisers in Kolkata, appealed for a review of the order. It reviewed the court order and allowed entry of up to 45 people at a time. The High Court also said that Dhakis, the traditional drummers, may be permitted, not within the pandal area but in the no entry zone outside the pandal. Dhakis should wear mask and maintain hygiene and physical distancing norms.

Meanwhile, BCCI President and former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly was seen at a community pandal in Kolkata for Durga Puja on Maha Ashtami.

On the other hand, Trinamool Congress MP Nusrat Jahan was also seen dancing and playing the dhak on the occasion of Maha Ashtami at Kolkata’s Suruchi Sangha on Saturday. Sporting traditional white saree with a red border, the Bengali actress visited the Suruchi Sangha pandal with her husband, Nikhil Jain.

She also offered prayers to the Goddess, performed Aarti and took blessings from the priest. She danced to the beats of the dhak along with a group of women and later she moved on to showing her drumming skills.

“We have ordered food via app. We have called our close friends and their families home this year. Wearing masks and after sanitising them thoroughly, we have organised family get together at one of our friends’ place. Thankfully, he has his own own house in Kolkata which is actually big. This time the Durga Puja celebration is going quite well with a different flavour. We are enjoying it,” said Rimjhim Roy, who is a professor of psychology at Kolkata’s Ashutosh College.

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