Puja festivities already muted, immersion one more concern
With Durga Puja celebrations allowed in the Capital, but subject to a strict set of safety protocols in the light of Covid-19, most organisers in the city have decided to keep the fanfare to a minimum.Updated: Oct 19, 2020, 07:21 IST
The clay idols are done, but something else has been keeping Subir Pal busy for the past week — consulting his clients on how to immerse the idols once rituals are over. Pits of various sizes need to be dug, depending on how large the idols are, and with space at a premium, Pal, who sculpted the idols, is the best person for the job.
A professional idol-maker, Pal said he has helped several organisers create artificial ponds – with tank volumes ranging from 400 cubic-feet for Sarojini Nagar Kali Mandir to 1,960 cubic-feet for the organisers in the Uttara Swamimalai Mandir in RK Puram.
With Durga Puja celebrations allowed in the Capital, but subject to a strict set of safety protocols in the light of Covid-19, most organisers in the city have decided to keep the fanfare to a minimum.
The riders put in place by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) include prohibition on all kinds of fairs, food stalls, exhibitions, rallies and processions. Additionally, masks must be worn mandatorily, gatherings have been limited to ensure social distancing. All visitors must also be thermally scanned before entering the venue, and all proceedings will be recorded on video, and reports submitted to a nodal officer appointed to check potential violations.
Several organisers have decided against idols of deities at their venues this year. However, the ones who decide to place idols, they will have to arrange for immersion on their own, the district administrations have said — as a precondition for issuing no-objection certificates (NOC), several organisers and government officials told HT.
The idol immersion ritual is scheduled for Friday.
Delhi’s revenue minister Kailash Gahlot said, “The decisions were taken considering safety protocols concerning the Covid-19 pandemic. Durga Puja celebrations have been allowed with the precondition of certain safety precautions, and those have to be adhered to. People’s safety is our priority.”
In Delhi, idol immersion in the Yamuna and natural water bodies is prohibited, under recommendations of a committee set up by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
“It should not be much of a problem, because most organisers who are celebrating with idols have limited it’s height to five feet. A limited space in the localities for immersion will do,” said Debashis Saha, chief coordinator of the Durga Puja committee at Matri Mandir in Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave.
There are over 500 Durga Puja celebrations in the Capital every year, according to records of the government’s revenue department, which conducts inspection of venues and arrangements jointly with the police before an NOC is issued.
In 2019, Delhi had recorded all idol immersions in artificial ponds for the first time. While around 50 prominent organisers in the city had arranged for idol immersions in their own venue or open spaces in close proximity, the other 550-odd organiser had immersed the clay idols in 115 artificial ponds of different sizes created by the government across the city.
“Own arrangement for artificial ponds has been set as a pre-condition for an NOC this year. Those organisers who do not have ample space are likely to face difficulty in case they have decided to have idols,” said Robin Bose, general secretary of the Durga Puja committee in Kashmere Gate.
The idol immersion process often includes a procession involving trucks, cars, two wheelers and around 50-100 people, depending on the scale and prominence of the organiser. “Immersion rituals can lead to gatherings and violation of the DDMA conditions. So, organisers will have to do it in their own venue or locality and ensure proper social distancing,” said a government official who did not wish to be identified.