Friday, February 26

Durga Puja 2020: How the festival’s spirit is alive amid pandemic


As the festive week of Navratri kicks off, devotees are looking forward to celebrating Durga Puja with great enthusiasm. However, the spirit of the auspicious festival has dampened a bit amid the coronavirus pandemic, especially for people staying away from their hometown.

ANI spoke to some of the people who are used to celebrating the auspicious festival in the traditional manner, and as they talk, they explain how the coronavirus pandemic has become a spoilsport in their travel plans, which they would do every year, and how the celebrations are going to differ this year amid the coronavirus scare.

Debaditya Saha, who works in Concentrix said, “I could have visited my hometown, but it isn’t safe. My parents are elderly and if I travel from Delhi to Kolkata, it isn’t safe either, as we could catch the infection- and travelling isn’t the smartest move at this time.”

However, talking about the new way of celebrating festivals is being considered amid the pandemic, i.e. virtual celebration.

Saha shared about how this year he is going to celebrate the festival virtually. He said, “Usually, I used to go back to my hometown and gather with my childhood friends as we go for pandal hopping. This year I will be attending the online darshan–and receive blessings of the goddess.”

Talking about the celebrations going virtual amid the pandemic, Soumi Ghosh, a software engineer at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) said, that in her home town – Kolkata- Durga Puja is a huge festival and it starts from the fifth day of Navratri and ends on Dussehra. Ghosh also shared that open pandals have been installed at some places so, that people can drive by and receive darshan of the idols, and this will maintain social distancing.”

As she talked about the virtual celebration, the software engineer said, “My childhood friend has pooja at her home, and we all used to visit her home on Ashtami (eighth day) every year, but since the pandemic is there – we the childhood school friends are planning to do a video conference call. And to do this my friend Anjali said she will hold the phone close to the pandal so that we can all take the blessings of Goddess Durga.”

An interior designer, Jasmita Pattnaik, who stays in Delhi, and hails from Odisha, shared how the celebration of the festival has been changed amid the pandemic.

“Being an Odia girl, Durga Puja is the most awaited festival for me…every year I celebrate it with my family in Odisha. It not just a festival in Odisha, it is a symbol of unity, enthusiasm, fraternity and brotherhood, a representation of rich Odia culture and heritage. Durga puja is the time to cherish, enjoy and rejoice.”

On how this year the pandemic has become a spoilsport in the festival plans, Pattnaik said, “Usually, all the family members and relatives celebrate this festival together, but due to this pandemic we are not able to celebrate this Dussehra like before. We have to follow the protocol, social distancing.

“Earlier, after finishing all the puja procedures and rituals we used to eat together, and celebrate the day by roaming around the city for pandal hopping, but this time people are not allowed for pandals, because the government declared the pandals/mandaps have to be covered on three sides. The 4th side would be covered in a way not to allow any public view of idols. There would be no darshan by public/devotees. The size of idols in all such poojas would be less than 4 feet and no public address system can be used.”

“The Government also said there would be no immersion procession and all ideals will be immersed in artificial ponds, created by local administration for the purpose. This is very painful for us,” said Pattnaik.

“Earlier, during the puja times, the streets are flooded with chat stalls, toy stall, various puja items and special interesting stuff !! This time around roads are empty.”

Mosumi Chakrobatry, a consultant at a corporate firm, who belongs to Kolkata shared how the family gathering which used to take place around the festival is not there. She said, “Durga puja is one of the festivals, when we get to meet your family and friends, however, this time it’s upside-down- because we cannot go to a pandal, and we have to go to a nearby temple, or will have to do the pooja at home. People can’t visit their hometown and we are feeling a little sad- as even if you visit any sort of Pandal, there is always a chance of catching the virus.”

Priyanka Sarkar, Account manager at Saints Art, said that “ This time we are going to attend virtual aarti, and there will be no bhog (food offerings)- for which people used to gather in lines.”

“One of the traditions, that occurs on the last day of Durga Puja is Sindoor Khela, literally (meaning vermillion game). It is one of the traditions where women smear each other with sindoor (red powder) on Vijayadashami, which will not happen this year. We used to gather with friends usually, and dance around it used to be a fun celebration “

This year, the festivities are dampened a bit, because of the pandemic. However, devotees are hopeful that the next year will be celebrated with great fervour and they aspire to bid the deadly virus goodbye.