Durga Puja: 2020 has robbed us of many festival celebrations, Dussehra would be different this year
Durga Puja, also known as Dussehra is one of the biggest Hindu festivals, celebrated across India, especially in North India. The multiple-day celebration varying from 6 days to 10 days across the country is a homage to goddess Durga. But more than a cultural festival, it is an emotion for many North Indians as they look to return home, irrespective of the part they are living in. People take this opportunity to meet friends and relatives and have a good time.
Durga Puja is that time of year when the air starts to smell different, when father buys a new pair of shoes and clothes with the money he had saved the whole year for pandal hopping, and when the house-help asks for a Puja bonus in subtle and clever ways. Streets are lined with fast food stalls, and you just can’t get enough of snacks. In villages, fairs are set up and it is the right opportunity for kids to get their father to loosen up their pockets for toys. Selfies in the background of gigantic and beautiful Pandals and idols dominate our social media feeds.
Dussehra in the times of Coronavirus
But with the COVID-19 situation this year, it seems difficult to follow the same traditions. With just 12 days to go for one of the biggest annual extravaganzas, preparations have started to take place adhering to the guidelines of the government. While Bihar government has asked its people to not make pandals, UP government and West Bengal government have advocated for open-air pandal so that there is proper ventilation. All the governments have asked to ensure social distancing, limited gathering and other measures during the Dussehra celebrations.
2020 has robbed us from all of the joy of celebrating our favourite festivals. Incidentally, the Chaitra Navratri started on 25th March, when the nationwide lockdown was announced in the country. It has been close to 8 months and still, we won’t be able to celebrate the second Navratri festival of the year.
Like Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja is also going to be toned down in the interest of public health safety. Pandals, the most attractive view of the Navratri, will avoid extravagant installation and decorations. It would be a very simple celebration, almost like going back to the time when Durga Puja was more of a family celebration than a public gathering.
It is expected that the pandals will remain open, medical personnel would be stationed with equipment and emergency kit and the volunteers would be stationed to avoid mass gathering at the pandal entrance.
Kolkatans say that the crowd of Kumartuli, the famous potter’s colony on the banks of the river, symbolizes the arrival of Durga Maa. Every year, the place starts to fill with crowd days before the Navratri starts. But this year, Kumartoli, situated in Northern West Bengal, looks unusually deserted and quiet.
What will be missed this year?
Pandal committees across the country are considering various options to not let the virus spread more. This year you should not keep your hopes high apart from expecting the main Durga idol with unusual simple pandal. You won’t be looking at exuberant decorations, crafts, glorifying themes and lights this year. You might not get the chance to have the best Durga Puja selfie this year.
But not all hope is lost. As there will be cut down on the scale of celebrations, smaller artists and local cottage industry could be preferred this year to keep the spirit of the festival running and at the same time taking care of the livelihood of those who were affected due to COVID-19.
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