The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown an axe over the capital’s extravagant Durga puja celebrations and fanfare that one usually saw during the festive season in the past.

Ganesh Chaturthi this year was celebrated low-key, and Durga Puja preparations appear to be following the same path. With Covid-19 cases in Delhi on the rise, Delhi’s Durga puja organizers and Kali temples have decided to tone down the festivities and most of them are doing away crowd-pulling activities to maintain Covid-19 protocol.

As the Bengalis have migrated to different parts of the country, they have started celebrating their tradition in different cities. Delhi is one such city which also reverberates with the Puja vibes and one will feel that he has arrived at a mini Kolkata.

Pandal hopping is a common thing in Durga puja. CR Park remains exhilarating with a festive spirit during Durga Puja where the pandals reflect Bengali culture, and pandal hoppers also used to get an opportunity to taste a lot of popular Bengali delicacies to become an integral part of the puja affair.

But this time devotees are going to miss out all these as the public will not be allowed to flock in as they did earlier in accordance with health protocols under “New Normal”. Moreover, many of the pujas are not happening this time or it would be held but there shall be no idol or pandal and will only do a Ghat (Kalash) Puja.

No food stalls, rallies, exhibitions or processions either will be allowed until October 31, inside or outside any venue or pandal. Some Puja organizers in the city have decided to adopt technology and take the revellers on a virtual tour through live streaming and social media. Live streaming of the aarti, pushpanjali and all other rituals will be done on social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

Durga Puja organizers and devotees got a short relief when the Delhi government on last Sunday issued a formal order allowing Ramlila and Durga Puja pandals in the national capital and the ban on large gatherings lifted in Delhi for Ramlila and Durga Puja after they approached the authorities.

Delhi Government has put out some fresh set of guidelines on 11th Oct 2020, superseding all guidelines in place regarding the celebrations, including strict adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols, for holding congregations and large events ahead of Durga Puja and Ramleela celebrations.

According to Delhi Government, fairs, food stalls, jhoolas, processions, exhibitions and rallies won’t be allowed until October 31. Permission from the District Magistrate must be sought by all event organisers to organise any kind of a gathering. It will be mandatory for organisers to obtain permission from the district magistrates of their respective areas to conduct any festival-related event.

Permission of any event will be granted by the district magistrate and the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) of a particular area only after full inspection, the Delhi government order said.

In closed spaces, events will be allowed with only 50 per cent capacity, not exceeding 200 people, while in outdoor events, the number of people permitted will be determined strictly based on the social distancing norms.

The event organiser will have to keep separate gates for entry and exit and no person will be allowed entry without a mask.

While Navratra will begin from October 17 to 25 (Dusshera), Durga Puja will be celebrated from October 22 to 26.

Swapan Ganguly, the spokesperson of New Delhi Kali Bari, one of the oldest Durga Puja organisers in the city, told The Statesman, “As we are tussling with Covid-19, we have to keep our emotions and tradition intact by following all puja rituals and within the norms set by the government alongside.

Regarding arrangements of the festival, Ganguly, who is having experience of organising Durga Puja for more than 29 years at New Delhi Kalibari, said as per the order issued by the Delhi Government, they too have planned separate entry and exit with sanitizing tunnels for visitors. “We are creating a proper route for visitors coming to see the Goddess Durga Maa. Videography of the entire venue will also be done and a soft copy of each day’s function will have to be submitted to the DM’s office, as per order.”

“This time we are planning to distribute ‘Bhog Prasad’ – Durga Ma’s blessings in hygienically packet boxes properly sanitized only to donors.

“To avoid any touching, we will not accept any kind of Puja offerings, fruits or sweets from devotees, however, cash donations are welcome, and there will be no cultural programs or stalls this time,” he added.