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How we can celebrate Durga Puja maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols

Durga puja is definitely going to be different this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is no wonder it is going to be a lot different this year for you, me, and everybody. There were no retail shopping, no Durga Puja pandal collections, and there won’t be any pandal hopping this year. Durga Puja is one of the most extravagant festivals of our country and is celebrated with great enthusiasm following months-long preparations before it. But still, I am planning to celebrate Durga Puja with covid-19 safety protocols. But how? Let’s read more.

The main festivities remain for five days- Panchami, Shashti, Saptami, Ashtami, Nabami and Dashami. Till the tenth day which is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra all across India festivities are carried on in full energy and fervour. While it’s Durga Puja in states such as West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Odisha, it’s the nine days of celebration of Navaratri that starts tomorrow, 17th October 2020.

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A Click from lat year’s Bonedi barir pujo in Kolkata, 2019

Among many other things, one that struck me while the whole country was shut down due to Covid-19 pandemic was Durga Puja as I had planned to visit Kolkata just like the previous year. I started consoling myself that it won’t last that long, right. It’s just March and there are six months left. We Bengalis are so crazy about Durga Puja that we start the countdown for the next year puja the day after Viyaja Dashami. So even the slightest thought that this year there won’t be any Durga Puja is unbearable upon us.

Its that time of the year we get a long holiday, the whole year we had been waiting for this month. People who are staying in different cities for job or education return to meet and celebrate the festivities with their loved ones. This is the main essence of Indian festivals.

In March, I thought this year probably we won’t get the slightest chance to see the face of Maa Durga. But no it’s not like that, each state has laid down their various protocols to celebrate Durga Puja maintaining covid-19 safety protocols. Many states have also opened their territories for the commencement of travelling but with many protocols. People are planning to celebrate it but in their own way staying indoors.

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A picture from last year’s Durga Puja parikrama in Kolkata, 2019

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Here I sorted 8 ways in which we can try to celebrate Durga Puja maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols.

  1. Refraining from retail shopping and encouraging e-commerce

Well, the first thing that simply excites us before any festivals is the shopping part. That may include apparels, home decor items, new furniture, curtains, kitchen accessories and whatnot. But this year let’s refrain from retail shopping and encourage online shopping.

Throughout this entire lockdown, various e-commerce and small business did a commendable job by supplying all our necessities at our door-step. Let’s support the #vocalforlocal initiate and engage in online shopping as much as we can. This will be the first step towards celebrating Durga Puja maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols.

Last week I went to Fancy Bazar the largest shopping hub of Guwahati for some urgent work. I was amazed to find the shops and streets almost empty. A market which remains crowded two months ahead of Durga Puja is now left with deserted shops. It shows that people are getting conscious of the situation

2. Watching various pandals and Maa Durga Pratima from home

By now we have all become tech-savvy. This pandemic did bring a wave of technological improvements. My six years old nephew can now open a laptop and almost know its basic functioning. So we can make good of technology by watching Durga Puja from the comfort zone of our houses.

I am sure most of the local and national TV news channels are going to cover the popular Puja Pandals and telecast for the viewers. That would be a good way to see the decorations and the Devi Pratima.

When I used to stay in Dibrugarh, Assam I remember how my grandmother used to stick to the television and watch the Durga Puja pandals of Kolkata that used to be telecasted in various News channels. So we need to do the same thing this year.

3. Strictly forbidding kids and senior citizens to move outdoors

I think this protocol must be strictly followed and under any circumstances kids below 10 years and senior citizens also people with co-morbidities should be allowed to move outside. We know that even after so many strict protocols there will be a certain section of people who will leave no stone unturned to roam around aimlessly.

Soon things are going to pass and all we need is just to keep patience. It’s not like this pandemic is ever-lasting. And is it so important to gather outside who knows when we may get infected by the deadly Corona Virus? That’s something we need to reflect upon and celebrate Durga Puja maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols

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4. Offering Puspanjali at our home

I have read somewhere that this year puspanjali will be limited to a few numbers of people in batches or maybe just for the committee members. Puspanjali is the process of offering flowers to Maa Durga along with the chants of Devi Mantra by the pandit/purohit moshai. This year let’s offer flowers and prayers at our own Puja Ghars that we all have in our homes. Maa Durga has a presence at our hearts and homes so why not worship her staying indoors.

5. Making delicious home-cooked food

During this lockdown due to this Covid 19 pandemic one thing that we all have discovered that hidden Masterchef in us. Everybody tried making some new recipes and every other day we saw the opening of a new youtube food channel. So we can continue with the same spirit and cook and eat at our homes rather than moving out. We can prepare a full-course meal for our loved ones and also invite a friend or two for lunch or dinner.

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Prepare delicious home cooked food

6. Encourage house parties

This year to celebrate Durga Puja maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols rather than going out to crowded malls or restaurants why not sit at home, call your friends and catch up for some adda-session or maybe enjoy some wine with your dear ones. This is the best time to spend quality time with your family and friends. Make video calls to your family in case you couldn’t join them for the festivities. Ther are just one touch away.

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Source – Free Image from Canva

7. Carry your mask and sanitizer

Incase going out to avoid crowded malls and restaurants, parks, etc and don’t forget to carry your mask, hand sanitizer and surface disinfectants. The mask is to cover your nose and mouth, not your neck. So better wear that properly. This is for your own safety and for those around you.

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8. Don’t forget to dress up for the festivities

Another trend we saw this lockdown was the various saree challenges, online theme parties, etc. We wore our favourite sarees and clicked pictures at home or we dressed up for an online theme party. We can do the same thing this Durga Puja thereby maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols.

I am sure we all have done a lot of online shopping the past few days. Well, truth be told I did quite a lot. Get all dolled up and flaunt your favourite outfits online and that will definitely give your mood a lift.

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A picture of yours truly, all decked up in a saree

Besides this, the State Government of Assam and West Bengal where Durga Puja is celebrated in a grand manner has laid down certain rules to be strictly following during the five days of festivities.

In Assam the various District Administrators has laid down certain rules to be followed- Some of the most important ones are as follows:_

The pandals are asked to keep spacious and open from all sides. there must be proper entry and exit, all pandals to be closed by 10:00pm, food outlets to be closed by 9:00pm. All the volunteers, priests and Puja organizers are asked to get tested for COVID-19 before Panchami Puja. Mask and hand sanitizers are compulsory, there won’t be any cultural programmes, fairs, the setting of road-side food stalls and restaurants. Also, the authorities that asked the Puja Committee to adhere to the rules laid for the inauguration of puja pandals and also immersion on Dashami.

In West Bengal, the rules are almost similar. There won’t be any carnival this year, electronic media and social media is encouraged for watching the puja pandals, the High Court has restricted entry of visitors to all the Puja Pandals. Five metres beyond the small pandals and 10 metres beyond the bigger ones are made to be barricaded and properly marked.

So this is the time to act matured enough and as responsible citizens, it’s our duty to protect ourselves and also others against the dreadful virus. So hope every one of you have a great Durga Puja and Navaratri celebration amidst this pandemic and maintaining all Covid-19 safety protocols. Stay safe and have a great time.

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