The Tripura government revised guidelines for Durga Puja celebration on Sunday to include mandatory Covid-19 tests of the puja organizers, priests and volunteers in order to contain spread of the pandemic.
More than a month ago on September 4, the state government issued first Durga puja guidelines which directed the puja organizers to collect subscriptions online, reducing number of puja pandals through mutual consultation, avoiding narrow entrance and exit systems in the pandals, allowing 5-10 people to visit the idols at a time and others.
According to the revised guidelines, all the priests along with puja organizers and volunteers will need to undergo Covid-19 tests before Panchami which falls on October 21. Besides, there might be Covid-19 testing teams at the vicinity of some puja pandals to conduct random tests on the devotees visiting the pandals during the puja.
In order to avoid crowds in the pandals, the government ordered that the pandals should be kept open from all sides. If the roof of the pandal is required to be sealed, then all other sides of the pandal need to be kept open and vice versa. The government prohibited any kind of fair in front of the puja pandals barring few stalls could be set up at some distance from the puja pandal to avoid crowds.
The priests have been asked to direct the pushpanjali ritual during puja through microphones and the devotees need to bring flowers from their homes and 10-15 devotees could take part in the pushpanjali at a time.
On Dussehra, the puja clubs would organize ‘sindoor khela’ where 10-15 women could take part at a time in different intervals.
Sindoor Khela is a traditional ritual where married women bid adieu to Goddess Durga by applying vermillion on her face.
The puja organizers were also asked to bring idols to the pandals without any procession.
The puja organizers need to identify a place, almost two meters distance from the entry point of the pandal for the visitors and they should engage volunteers to see that the people visiting the pandals are maintaining Covid-19 norms including social distancing, wearing masks etc.
The revised guidelines also mandated the puja organizers to install CCTVs in their pandals to monitor the crowds and later handed over these footage to the police.
Pregnant women, senior citizens and children below 10 years old have been advised to stay home during the puja. Though there would be no public Durga puja celebration in the containment zones, the people residing within the zones can celebrate in their respective homes.
Tripura has so far recorded a total of 28,352 Covid-19 cases of whom 313 have died. Two others died by suicide.
Dipak Majumder, secretary of Sanghati Club said, “We will organize the puja maintaining the guidelines of the state government. We have decided to curtail our budget almost by 50 per cent compared to the last year. Besides organizing puja, our main aim is to avoid crowds to contain the spread of the disease. We appeal to the devotees to follow the similar guidelines.”
Sarmistha Das, a housewife, said, “It seems there will be less crowd for pushpanjali this year as many mothers cannot take part in the ritual by leaving their children alone at home. And also, safety is more important than visiting puja pandals this year.”