Kolkata, July 15: With only three months to go the organisers of different Durga puja committees in West Bengal are gearing up to celebrate the yearly bonanza of the Bengalis maintaining all the Covid safety protocols.
"From our members and locals frequenting the pandals to artisans, priests, dhakis and electricians -- everyone will have to get COVID vaccines in the next three months," Forum for Durgotsab official Partha Ghosh said. The puja committees will also make certain that people visiting the pandals wear masks covering the nose and mouth and maintain social distancing.
"We expect everyone to get both doses, but for dhakis (traditional drummers) coming from villages two-three days before the puja. As we don't have a control over their vaccination, we cannot assure anything but we will try to ensure that they get at least one dose," Ghosh added. Forum for Durgotsab, an umbrella organisation of 550 community Durga Pujas in Kolkata and neighbouring areas, also published guidelines to ensure that the festivities are held following COVID-safety protocols.
Last year the state government had imposed restrictions on the celebration of Durga Puja disallowing crowds inside the pandals. Puja organisers are well aware that the state government might impose similar restrictions considering the imminent threat of the third wave of the coronavirus, are making all preparations to celebrate the pujas maintaining all the safety Covid protocols.
The pandals have to be built in such a way that devotees can see the idols from a distance and need not come near, as per the guidelines, which will be submitted to the government, and are similar to the ones set by the Calcutta High Court last year as it banned the entry of people to the pandals.
"The challenge for every crowd-puller puja committee like ours will be how to strike a balance so that the pandals are built maintaining aesthetics while the idols can be seen from a distance," Ghosh, who is also a member of the Shibmandir Durga Puja committee - one of the major pujas in south Kolkata said.
The Durga Puja committees in the city are also focussing on digital presence to ensure that people can view the artworks from home. "We will project the idol and the decorations in such a way on social media that people may not feel the urge to come to the pandal," said another official of a Durga Puja committee in north Kolkata.
Several big-budget Durga Puja committees, including Sribhumi Sporting Club in Lake Town, Santoshpur Lake Pally, Hindustan Club and Shib Mandir, held the 'Khuti Puja' on Ratha Jatra. The ritual of 'Khuti Puja' or worshipping a pole marks the beginning of the building of pandals. The festivities will begin this year on October 12 with Maha Saptami and go on till October 15 -- Vijaya Dashami.