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City’s top puja organisers hint at muted festivities

With Mahalaya set to be observed this month, the big puja organising honchos are treading with caution and relying on safety measures such as sanitiser tunnels at pandals.

SOUMYADIP MULLICK | Kolkata |

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, dhak beats, this year, might not usher in too grand a festival during Durgotsav but Bengalis aren’t ones to surrender to misfortunes.

With Mahalaya set to be observed this month, the big puja organising honchos are treading with caution and relying on safety measures such as sanitiser tunnels at pandals.

Rearing an indomitable spirit, mankind has waged a battle against virus which is on a killing spree, globally, and has redefined the many nuances of our lives.

In Bengal, the months before Durga Puja, generally kicks off a flurry of activities which come into fruition and find recognition during the five-day-long festival, turning Kolkata into a carnival. Lakhs of people throng the city to witness the pomp and grandeur. Artisans of Kumartali meticulously mould clay, and compete against each other, to give shape to idols which to them must look “lively”.

The grandiosity of the pandals illuminated by neon LED lights, ‘Dhuno’ and the rhythmic dhak beats, creates a hypnotic ambience which unites families and communities. However, this year, the preparations seem to be on the slow burner. With orders for the idols dispatched, the organisers are rattling brains to figure out safest options to celebrate Durgotsav.

“We organised Durga Puja even during the 1978 flood in Bengal. It was certainly not on a big-scale but we couldn’t afford to give it a miss. Misfortunes are to visit upon us time and again but certain things are part of our chromosomes,” felt Dwaipayan Roy, general secretary of Jagat Mukherjee Park puja committee. He said the festival has a cultural significance and Bengal is proud to flaunt it.

“We will host the Durgotsav but with minimum initiatives. The members of the Forum for Dugotsav recently decided on some protocols which must be in place. No more than 25 people can be allowed inside pandals, at a time. We will not allow anyone to go near the altar. ” said Mr Roy who added that sanitiser tunnels would be set up at the venue since it is not feasible to check all with thermal guns.

The puja seeks to flaunt masterpieces of its veteran sculptor whose speciality lies in combination of colours while the prevailing pandemic will feature in its theme. He told The Statesman this year the puja will be done without sponsorship and with a tight budget.

Meanwhile, vice president of Baghbazar puja committee, Abhay Bhattacharya said, “Baghbazar Puja will hold on to its traditional style of Puja sans theme. We have a good number of volunteers for crowd management which will be done ensuring Covid protocols are in place. We are deciding on the management measures.” He added, Baghbazar, which will celebrate its 102 year of puja, doesn’t have any financial constraints as of yet.

Mrityunjoy Biswas of Talla Pratyay puja committee confirmed that the puja will be held but with restrictions while the club will announce its final decisions in the first week of September after discussion with the police.

Meanwhile, theme artistes like Gouranga Kuila who has designed themes for big pujas of South Kolkata, said this year the human plight in the face of pandemic will form an integral part of puja themes. The committee of Tridhara at Southern Avenue is yet to take a call while clubs such as Mudiali have shown green signal