Durga Puja organisers in Kolkata prepare guidelines for festivities amid pandemic

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With less than 100 days to go for the Durga Puja – the biggest festival in West Bengal – the forum of puja organisers has proposed a set of guidelines, which needs to be followed during the pandemic.

“This year we have proposed that all puja organisers, artisans, priests and drummers should be vaccinated,” said Saswata Basu, general secretary of Forum for Durgotsab.

The forum represents more than 350 pujas in the city, including prominent ones, some of which are patronised by ministers and senior leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress. This year Durga Puja will be celebrated in the second week of October.

In 2020, the week-long festival was celebrated in a low-key fashion due to the pandemic. The Calcutta high court had banned the entry of visitors inside the pandals, virtually declaring them “no entry zones” to check any gathering, which could have increased the coronavirus spread.

“We have also urged the organisers to scale down their spending on the pandals, lighting, idols and other paraphernalia, and instead use the funds for public service. The pandal should be kept as simple and open as possible with minimum interior work, so that citizens may see the pandal, decoration and idol from outside,” he added.

Other Covid-19 restrictions, such as maintaining social distance during puja, wearing masks and sanitisation, will also be followed. Just like last year, no sliced fruits will be offered as bhog (to the idol). Instead only whole fruits will be offered.

Last year, over 37,000 community pujas were organised across the state, including over 2,500 pujas in Kolkata. Around 1,700 pujas were organised by women in the state. The list, however, doesn’t include pujas held inside housing societies and homes.

The Mamata Banerjee administration had provided ₹50,000 to each puja organiser as a grant in 2020. The court, however, directed the organisers to use the fund to purchase masks and sanitiser which could be distributed to pandal-hoppers.

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