Play, pause, repeat: Durga Puja moves from pandals to phones
This year the popular pushpanjali ritual went online with the Durga Puja celebrations going low-key in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic and only around 50 organisers in the city getting the district administration’s approval for minimum arrangements (even though gatherings are prohibited).Updated: Oct 23, 2020, 02:17 IST
Nikhil Sengupta rolled the sleeves of his crisply ironed kurta as his teenage son put his laptop on the centre table and logged into the Facebook page of a prominent Durga Puja organiser in the city. Sengupta’s wife Preetha, a computer engineer, quickly fetched a book of Sanskrit shlokas from the drawer of the small home temple in their Dwarka Sector 8 residence.
Soon, a temple priest started reciting some shlokas from the computer screen and the Senguptas followed – often turning pages of the book in Preetha’s hand as they missed a word or two.
Around 30 km away in south Delhi’s CR Park -- a hub of prominent Durga Pujas that attract thousands of people every year-- Arindam Sharma and his family followed the rituals in a similar fashion.
So did Ritika Mukherjee’s family in east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar Phase I.
Around the same time on Thursday morning, but in different locations across the city, these families and many other devotees participated in pushpanjali – community prayers marked by offering of flowers to the deities during Durga Puja.
In other years, pushpanjali is a grand affair with the prominent among the 500-odd Durga Puja venues in the Capital witnessing thousands of visitors, often compelling the organisers to break the gathering into batches and urging the priest to repeat the shlokas several times in a row.
This year the popular pushpanjali ritual went online with the Durga Puja celebrations going low-key in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic and only around 50 organisers in the city getting the district administration’s approval for minimum arrangements (even though gatherings are prohibited).
“We did a Facebook live of the pushpanjali ritual today. We will continue doing so till the ceremonies end. In general years, we have to organise seven to eight batches of prayers every day and each batch has around 350-400 devotees. Such gathering could have been a major threat this year,” said Debashis Shah, chief coordinator of the Durga Puja committee at Matri Mandir in Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave
Saurav Chakravorty, managing committee member of the CR Park Kali Mandir Durga Puja, said: “The crowd for pushpanjali exceeds 30,000 in our venue in normal years. The number of batches keep varying – depending on the time of the Bhog (food offering to the deities) and the size of the crowd. Under Covid-19 guidelines, no such gathering should happen this time. So, we enabled live streaming through the temple’s website and local cable channels.”
On part of the government, a lot has gone into convincing puja committee members to keep the fanfare low-key, several government officials said, adding the last two weeks witnessed scores of meetings with organisers and management committees of religious institutes.
“Meetings with more than 70 such associations have been conducted in this regard only to ensure adherence to Covid-19 guidelines during the festivities,” said Neha Bansal, district magistrate (West Delhi).
The few organisers who have got permission for Durga Puja this year are following the rituals with smaller idols of the deities or by installing ‘holy urns’ (kalash sthapana) in their premises.
There is no room for decorated pandals, cultural programmes, fairs and food courts. Many committees have decided to distribute whatever donations they have received to people worst hit by the lockdown.