Puja 2020 – An Innocuous Revelry
The internet is regularly flooded with different versions of the same thing, often something that has a loose foundation. Nonetheless, the hype prevails, and misinformation and misconceptions find way into our minds. Similarly, the spread of the coronavirus and its delusory dance has left us civilians confounded as to what expectations to have for the upcoming major festivals and important dates, where safety restrictions are hard to implement. The abruptness in the spike and fall in the hypnotizing graph that almost everyone has been monitoring since March, 2020, has had a numbing effect lately. People are less concerned now than before, primarily due to the deceptiveness of mass media, more than the impact of time lapse. There are a lot of technical details that various sources have to offer, but the goal here is to keep the civilians of India (Bengal, to be more specific) sufficiently informed about the situation that is, and to warn them about the consequences that may befall them, lest they are not prepared to fight alongside the administrative authorities, while taking part in the celebrations.
Durga Puja in Bengal is something that demands all that glitter and sparkle that we have to offer, be it decorative or emotive. This year however, the foreboding was pretty prominent. People could quickly engage in a grim thought about the fate of this year’s festive foundations, pre-planning and the once-in-a-year revelry. The unrestrained expectations that people have, mostly in Bengal, seemed to diminish along with their dimming exuberance. Pestering the civilians to maintain the order and observe obedience to the mandated guidelines by the state governments has yielded unexpectedly low results. People (informed, uninformed and misinformed) have previously exhibited dumbfounding reluctance in the past regarding issues concerning their own health and safety. But the unprecedented rapidness in the spread of the deadly coronavirus ideally calls for the demonstration of basic human reasoning, at least among those imbibing urban refinement (a doubtful claim). However, the immediate concern being spreading awareness and information, and not measuring public ignominy, let us focus on the festive highlights and guidelines that one must follow in order to safely enjoy Durga Puja 2020.
- Delhi government has revoked the rights to conduct exhibitions, set up food stalls, start rallies or processions inside or outside puja pandals or the vicinity till 31st October, 2020.
- The Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) or the District Magistrate shall grant the permission to host an event, only after complete inspection of the area.
- Events in closed areas are to be hosted only with 50% capacity. No more than 200 people shall be allowed in such events.
- Outdoor events are to be conducted adhering strictly to previously mandated social distancing norms.
- Entry without masks shall be strictly prohibited and separate gates for entry and exit need to be used. (This ever-existent norm needs to be particularly followed this time for self-security).
- People (pandits) organizing the puja (anjali) are requested to conduct the rituals intermittently in order to enable all to attend in smaller groups. The prayers need to be recited using microphones and the devotees/attendees need to maintain social distancing while inside the pandal premises.
- Masks and sanitizers may have to be distributed to visitors entering without any.
- West Bengal government mandates the construction of open and spacious pandals that will allow visitors to enter and exit without breaking social distancing rules.
- Cultural programmes and carnivals have been banned from being arranged for inside or near any puja pandal.
- Previously, civilians used to enjoy pandal hopping starting out early (Tritia or Chaturthi) to avoid unwanted crowds and long queues. But this year, West Bengal government has taken it upon itself to instruct notable clubs to organize for early openings (Tritia), so that people may enjoy safely over well dispersed festive days. The only difference is that, this time, the idols shall be open for admiration from Tritia, with all decorations completed.
- Virtual judgements are to be delivered for prestigious awards this year, and large crowds of students and other committees are prohibited from entering pandals for survey.
- West Bengal government has requested organizers to adapt to incorporate virtual worshipping for those living away from town or away from the area of worship, so that the necessity to travel may be curbed, and the situation mitigated. In order for that to happen, clubs and committees are requested to record videos and high quality pictures of their pandals and idols if possible and share them over social media platforms to make the devotees “feel at home”.
- Inaugurations and ingressions are to be conducted with minimal social flutter. Idols are needed to be taken to ghats directly, without much stoppage time and clubs are requested to get pre-allotted timings for the immersion of their idols at any ghat.
The effectiveness of the above mentioned rules and requests rely on the compliance of the public, which again depends on their self-interests.
On a lighter note, Barisha Club, Behala, is exhibiting the ‘indomitable spirit’ of women workers struck by the unexpected lockdown, through the idol depicting a migrant worker mother (Durga) holding a shirtless toddler (Kartick) in her arms. Worshipping this idol is a gentle gesture both at the power of women, as well the abruptness of the eye-opener (pandemic).
This is the time of the year when people in India flock and feast, roam and rejoice, expect excitement but often forget to return and revert. The police are expected to discharge their duties diligently, the organizations are required to take control of undesirable situations, the health workers need to be extra responsive and responsible, but the public usually feels an unchained sense of freedom. This freedom shall not resonate with life this year, and the earth demands a little more attention than the takers today. It is that time of our lives…the time to give back.
This puja, stay mostly home, avoid public transport, stay safe, take care of the elders, and start giving back.
Image Source - https://www.telegraphindia.com/calcutta/durga-puja-in-kolkata-migrant-mother-as-the-goddess-at-barisha-club-in-behala/cid/1794797