Delhiites turned out in droves to enjoy the penultimate day of Ram Lila and Durga Puja in the Capital.
As city residents went pandal (pavilion)-hopping dressed in their finery, traffic came to a crawl in many south and north Delhi areas.
With the Ram Lila celebrations also reaching the climax on Sunday, preparations began for Dussehra on Monday. The Ramlila committees in the city were making the last minute touch-ups to ready their Raavan effigy for burning. Raavan’s effigy is burnt on the day of Dussehra.
Like other years, Durga Puja celebrations this year again was marked by the conscious attempt to return to the roots.
The ekchala style of idols, use of traditional items for pandals and musical jamborees devoid of Bollywood glitz and glamour, all were pointers to the toning down of celebrations.
While some puja committees blamed dwindling collections (courtesy the downturn) for the reason behind returning to the roots, others said the move was deliberate.
“For us, probasi (those who live outside West Bengal) Bengalis this is the only way of remaining in touch with our homeland,” said Satyabrata Banerjee, a member of Puja Samiti at RK Puram.
Bangla bands and singers, both local and from Kolkata, were the toasts at these places.
This year was more special than other years for Delhi’s oldest Durga Puja at Kashmere Gate. The puja, started in 1910, celebrated its centenary year this time and has been able to preserve much of its customs over the years.
The beat of dhak (drums) reverberated through the pandal on Navami — the last day of Durga Puja — as devouts danced with dhunuchi during the evening aarti.
At CR Park, celebrations were on in full swing. During the pujas, the locality resembles mini-Kolkata and it becomes the hub of all activity.
Management guru Arindam Choudhury was seen indulging in some adda (chat) at a pandal there. Many Bengali savouries were on offer at the stalls — like roll and cutlet — albeit at three-times the prices charged in Kolkata.
It seemed a carnival was on and police had a trying time managing traffic and keeping an eye on miscreants.
Tight security for grand finale
The Capital has been thrown under a blanket security cover in wake of the Dussehra celebrations on Monday.
Mock drills were conducted at busy marketplaces across the city on Sunday to check preparedness of the police to handle any kind of eventuality.
The area in and around Ramlila Maidan in Old Delhi has been secured by a posse of policemen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi will burn the effigy of Raavan on Monday at Ramlila Maidan at a function attended by lakhs of city residents.
The nine-day long Ramlila celebrations would come to an end on Monday, when the country celebrates Dussehra.
“As lakhs of people are expected to attend the Raavan dahan, including several VIPs, we are taking no chances. We have discussed the security arrangements with the event organisers and have fully sanitised the routes to be taken by the PM and his convoy,” said a senior police officer, requesting anonymity.
Additional commandos and policemen have been deployed in and around Chandni Chowk, the officer said.
Delhi Police have also erected towers and have been given high quality binoculars to keep a check on people’s movement. Door frame metal detectors have been put up at all entry and exit points.
“No one would be allowed to park their vehicles within four kilometres of the Ramlila Maidan,” said the officer.