Caution in the air as Durga Puja begins with symbolic rituals in Delhi
For decades, this ritual would be followed by lifting of the cloth covering the imposing idol of Goddess Durga after which worshippers would make a beeline for the next four days to get a glimpse of the deity.Updated: Oct 22, 2020, 16:37 IST
It was an emotional moment for Debashis Saha, chief coordinator of Safdarjung Enclave’s Matri Mandir Durga Puja, when at 6am on Wednesday, the temple priests began chanting verses to install the holy urn (‘kalash sthapana’), marking the beginning of this year’s Durga Puja.
For decades, this ritual would be followed by lifting of the cloth covering the imposing idol of Goddess Durga after which worshippers would make a beeline for the next four days to get a glimpse of the deity.
Every year, Delhi would see over 600 big or small Durga Puja pandals, which this year has been reduced to around 50 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) disease. None of these pujas are a grand affair like previous years. There are no pandals, cultural performances or fairs. And no idols in majority of the places.
“It is really unfortunate that there is no Durga Ma and we have only the kalash puja, which our committee has decided to do every morning till October 25 to keep the festive feeling alive. People’s health is more important. Otherwise, our pandal would always witness a footfall of thousands every day during the puja week,” he said.
Instead of an idol, the committee has created a 12-feet artwork of Goddess Durga slaying the ‘Coronasur’ (the Corona devil).
With no mega festivities happening and people asked to view the live streaming of rituals on social media, many committees have decided to distribute whatever donations they have received to people worst hit by the lockdown.
In fact, many puja committees did not do anything on Wednesday.
Mrinal Kanti Biswas of the Purbanchal Bangiyo Samiti, an umbrella body of 38 Durga puja committees in East Delhi, said it is probably for the first time that Durga Puja has become a private affair because only limited people are allowed.
The size of the idols has also reduced. “Delhi used to have 16-feet or even 20-feet idols of Durga, but this time the maximum height will be just about five feet. Two metal tanks -- one at Mayur Vihar Phase 1 Kali Bari and the other at Purbasha Kali Bari IP Extension -- have been built for immersion in of idols in east Delhi,” he said.
The Kali Bari Durga Puja at Mandir Marg is one of the rare places that has a mini-pandal, an idol and has kept it open for all visitors. But this will be without the usual fanfare such as food and stalls as per Delhi Disaster management authority rules.
“Everyone is welcome, but no material offering will be accepted. Bhog will be served to members and those who give donations in packed boxes. Unlike other committees, we have not made it a members-only event. On Wednesday evening, we live streamed Durga Devi’s amantran (invite) ritual, though there were around 6-7 visitors and a group of dhaak players,” said Swapan Ganguly, general secretary of New Delhi Kali Bari.
FOCUS ON RESTAURANTS AND MARKETS
Delhi revenue minister Kailash Gahlot said teams have been formed in all 11 revenue districts to conduct surprise inspections at major points with chances of large congregations, with focus on temples, restaurants, markets, etc.
“More than 100 teams in all revenue districts will monitor if Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is being followed. Venues that have permission to hold functions will be inspected to check if videography from the start to the end of the event, temperature checks and social distancing as per DDMA rules are being done. Each approved event will have a nodal officer from our revenue department deployed on the spot,” Gahlot said.
The Delhi government’s excise department on Wednesday directed clubs, hotels, liquor shops and restaurants to ensure strict compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs). The assistant commissioners (enforcement) has been asked to deploy teams to check compliance of SOPs at bars in hotels, clubs and restaurants, a senior excise official said.
The Delhi Police said it apart from anti-terror and crowd-control measures, they directed their personnel to ensure all guidelines are followed. Apart from pandals and Ramlila venues, the police have deployed personnel at prominent places such as Chhattarpur temple, Kalkaji Mandir and Kali Bari in south Delhi, Hanuman temple and Gauri Shankar temple in north Delhi and the Karol Bagh Hanuman temple.
“One ACP along with two inspectors and two platoons (nearly 50) of personnel are deployed round-the-clock at the Chhattarpur and Sai Baba temples. As far as Covid-19 measures are concerned, the temple managements will ensure wearing of masks, proper markings, social distancing, signages, and regular announcements. Our staff will educate devotees also. Those found violating the norms will be prosecuted,” said DCP (south) Atul Kumar Thakur.
Anti-terror apparatus and barricades will be placed at strategic locations. Police vehicles will make announcements, asking people to wear masks, maintain social distancing and wash hands.
At crowded markets such as Chandni Chowk, Sadar Bazar, Lahori Gate, the police have taken measures in view of rising footfall. “Vehicles are not allowed in the Sadar Bazar market,” said DCP (north), Anto Alphonse.