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COVID-19 On Mind, Durga Puja Celebrations Low Key Sans Idols, Pandals, Bhog

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Durga Puja Committees in Delhi have unanimously decided that the puja celebrations this year would be minimalistic with no large gatherings, idols, cultural programmes and ‘bhog’

COVID-19 On Mind, Durga Puja Celebrations Low Key Sans Idols, Pandals, Bhog
Highlights
  • C R Park's puja committee has reduced the Durga Puja celebration to 1 day
  • Flowers, sweets, fruits from individual homes cannot be offered: Committee
  • We will keep celebrations as simple as possible: Committee spokesperson

New Delhi: It’s that time of the year. The fragrance of ‘shiuli’, the delicate orange and white flowers that blossom right about now, mingles with the autumn breeze to herald Durga Puja but the frankincense is missing and a wary quiet has overtaken the sound of festivities. In the air there is the virus and the fear of it. The Bengali community in the Delhi-NCR region is staying away from Durga Puja festivities, a community affair in parks and other open spaces. And nowhere is this more evident than in Chittaranjan Park, often known as ‘mini Bengal’.

Also Read: ‘Lockdown Has Gone, Coronavirus Hasn’t,’ Says PM Narendra Modi As He Reminds People To Follow Precautions In Festive Season

It’s two days before Durga Puja begins and Delhi’s predominantly Bengali neighbourhood has never been quieter. The parks that have for decades served as venues for larger than life themed pandals housing ornately decked Durga idols for five days every year are deserted. Keeping in mind the COVID-19 scare, puja committees in C R Park, as the south Delhi locality is known, and elsewhere in Delhi-NCR have decided to keep celebrations low key, hosting rituals online, sans idols, cultural programmes, ‘bhog’ and in several places even the customary floral offerings.

On Monday,12 Durga Puja Committees of Chittaranjan Park, Greater Kailash 1 and 2, Alaknanda, and Kalkaji met at a temple and unanimously decided that the puja celebrations this year would be suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting was convened by Greater Kailash MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj and attended by the sub-divisional magistrate, police officials and other agencies.

Most of the population of C R Park and members of puja committees are senior citizens and it is important they remain indoors and avoid contact with unknown people in pandals, Mr. Bharadwaj, a legislator of Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party, said.

But almost all the committees will host a small “kalash puja/ghat puja” to “ensure continuity of puja by these samitis”, according to a statement issued after the meeting. C R Park’s Mela Ground Committee, which is known for organising grand celebrations, featuring not just unique puja themes but also cultural performances by leading artists from Bengal, is one of them.

Also Read: Festivals Amid COVID-19 Outbreak: Experts Warn Against ‘Pandemic Fatigue’ To Avoid A Spurt In Cases During Festive Season

Unfortunately this year we are not organising Durga Puja on a large scale considering the unprecedented situation. No ‘pandal’ will be installed to prevent large gatherings to keep the public safe from this contagious disease. No activity will be organised except a ceremony called ‘ghot pujo’ which will be performed on ashtami with not more than 15 members and a priest at our Mela Ground park, Avik Mitra, a member of the organising committee, told PTI.

Durga Puja is celebrated over four days — sashti, saptami, ashtami and navami which this year fall from October 22 to 24. On the fifth day, dashami, devotees bid adieu to the goddess and the idol is immersed. In line with the Delhi government’s guidelines, 15 committee members, including two priests, will be allowed to attend the rituals physically within the park precincts, the final list for which has to be submitted to the police. For others, the ‘ghot pujo’ will be streamed live on the committee’s Facebook page.

All those who enter the premises will have to submit a self-attested declaration stating that they have not come in direct contact with any COVID positive patient in the last 48 hours. The Arogya Setu app will be mandatory for 15 members. Hand sanitisation, wearing of masks and maintaining social distance will be of utmost priority for all the members attending the ‘ghot pujo’, Mr. Mitra said.

C R Park’s B-Block puja committee too has reduced the annual five-day affair to a single day celebration with a ‘ghot pujo’ on October 24 from 7 am onwards. Only the priest and two helpers will be allowed to participate in the rituals. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action, said Suprakash Majumdar, general secretary of the committee.

Also Read: Half Of Indians May Have Had Coronavirus By February, Government Panel Estimates

This year, the committee has decided that flowers, sweets, and fruits from individual homes cannot be offered. Nothing will be accepted by the priest due to COVID-19 restrictions. There won’t be any ‘pandal’, idol, entertainment/cultural events, sports events, ‘bhog’ distribution at our ground either, Mr. Majumdar said.

The B Block committee is, however, accepting donations in cash as well as online and via cheque, all exempt from income tax. Puja spirits are running low even beyond Delhi’s ‘mini-Bengal’. COVID on their mind, Green Park’s Matri Mandir society also has chosen to go the ‘ghot pujo’ way despite the state government’s nod for small scale celebrations.

It would have been very difficult to restart after the government allowed puja celebrations. We will stick to our plan of performing ‘ghot pujo’. We will follow all rituals and no short cuts as far as the puja is concerned, said Debashis Saha, chief coordinator of the Matri Mandir Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti.

While members of the committee will be paying their respects to the deity from their respective homes, the committee has decided to send money to all the workers associated with the celebrations every year.

We have decided to pay needy workers who were associated with our puja like the ‘dhaki’ (drummers), cooks, and security personnel. Also, we will donate to the PM’s relief fund, Mr. Saha said.

Caution is key in the suburban town of Gurgaon that falls in Haryana. Gurgaon’s DLF5 Durga Puja committee has capped the number of people present within the pandal at any point of time at 45.

Also Read: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Calls For Scaling Up Of COVID-19 Testing, Sero Surveys

We will keep it as simple as possible… minimalistic, functional set up for pandal decorations. Our theme this year is about embracing minimalism, acknowledging the power of nature and appreciating the value of life, people and our society. Apart from keeping all rituals and activities of the puja at a minimum, we also intend to cut down all costs wherever possible, and use part of the savings from the funds raised to help people impacted during this time, a committee spokesperson said.

While individuals will be allowed to attend rituals physically, for those not keen to come to the pandal, especially the elderly and other vulnerable communities, celebrations will be telecast online on the committee website and its social media handles.

We have built a website for puja visit slot booking — 30 minute slots each, allowing 25 visitors in each slot and volunteers, security and sanitisation staff up to 20. No overlaps, or cross directional movement will be allowed. Attendees would be socially distanced once they are inside the venue. There will be flowerless ‘pushpanjali’ to avoid any common touch points, the committee member said.

The website will also be used to coordinate food distribution to minimise crowding. “There will be pre-packaged takeaway ‘bhog’ on one of the days. People will not be allowed to sit down and consume food. Just a clean handover of takeaway packages booked through the website,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read: India Has Largest Number Of COVID-19 Recovered Globally, Second In Number Of COVID Tests Done

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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World

22,90,75,864Cases
19,16,26,474Active
3,27,49,574Recovered
46,99,816Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 22,90,75,864 and 46,99,816 have died; 19,16,26,474 are active cases and 3,27,49,574 have recovered as on September 21, 2021 at 3:56 am.

India

3,35,04,534 26,115Cases
3,09,5758,606Active
3,27,49,574 34,469Recovered
4,45,385 252Deaths
In India, there are 3,35,04,534 confirmed cases including 4,45,385 deaths. The number of active cases is 3,09,575 and 3,27,49,574 have recovered as on September 21, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,24,498 2,583

45,229 1,281

63,40,723 3,836

1,38,546 28

Kerala

45,24,158 15,692

1,67,578 6,623

43,32,897 22,223

23,683 92

Karnataka

29,68,543 677

14,386 1,025

29,16,530 1,678

37,627 24

Tamil Nadu

26,47,041 1,661

16,984 15

25,94,697 1,623

35,360 23

Andhra Pradesh

20,39,529 839

14,388 311

20,11,063 1,142

14,078 8

Uttar Pradesh

17,09,680 11

194 4

16,86,599 15

22,887

West Bengal

15,62,173 524

7,810 96

15,35,699 608

18,664 12

Delhi

14,38,517 20

379 8

14,13,053 28

25,085

Odisha

10,20,754 510

4,947 96

10,07,666 600

8,141 6

Chhattisgarh

10,05,094 38

297 7

9,91,234 43

13,563 2

Rajasthan

9,54,263 9

91 10

9,45,218 19

8,954

Gujarat

8,25,737 14

133 3

8,15,522 17

10,082

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,402 8

96 0

7,81,789 8

10,517

Haryana

7,70,746 13

340 6

7,60,598 7

9,808

Bihar

7,25,901 7

69 1

7,16,173 8

9,659

Telangana

6,63,662 208

4,991 14

6,54,765 220

3,906 2

Punjab

6,01,323 59

307 10

5,84,517 38

16,499 31

Assam

5,98,423 455

4,984 72

5,87,632 517

5,807 10

Jharkhand

3,48,125 9

55 1

3,42,937 10

5,133

Uttarakhand

3,43,393 11

267 6

3,35,736 17

7,390

Jammu And Kashmir

3,28,069 128

1,461 32

3,22,191 159

4,417 1

Himachal Pradesh

2,17,140 234

1,616 54

2,11,871 177

3,653 3

Goa

1,75,583 85

810 36

1,71,478 48

3,295 1

Puducherry

1,25,517 54

867 56

1,22,818 109

1,832 1

Manipur

1,18,673 178

2,183 6

1,14,658 183

1,832 1

Tripura

83,905 51

346 10

82,750 40

809 1

Mizoram

81,460 1,731

15,140 1,008

66,057 721

263 2

Meghalaya

79,667 174

1,896 5

76,391 168

1,380 1

Chandigarh

65,188 7

41 4

64,329 3

818

Arunachal Pradesh

54,126 56

410 12

53,444 67

272 1

Sikkim

30,971 16

654 59

29,937 74

380 1

Nagaland

30,907 43

467 17

29,786 59

654 1

Ladakh

20,737 7

138 4

20,392 3

207

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,670

0 1

10,666 1

4

Lakshadweep

10,359 3

8 3

10,300

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,600

13 0

7,458

129

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