Durga Puja is just a week away and Navratri starts on Saturday. Images of Durga Puja and Navratri preparations from across the country give an idea of how two of the biggest festivals in India will look like in a pandemic year and what people are planning to do. Every year in the weeks between Navratri, Diwali and Bhai Dooj, Indians celebrate virtually every day. People visit friends and relatives, go for shopping and of course exchange gifts. Amid the Covid pandemic, experts are appealing to everyone to stay home so that the infection does not spread fast. Navratri and Durga Puja gatherings are an intrinsic part of the celebrations when maintaining social distance is very difficult.
With rising footfalls in the run-up to Durga Puja, in Kolkata and other parts of the country, the authorities of malls are trying to take safety measures, including sanitizing elevators and handrails. "We are careful about safety protocols since the reopening of our mall and diligently following the guidelines. We will allow up to 50 per cent of our standard capacity of around 50,000 people," head of Acropolis mall in Kolkata, K Vijayan told news agency PTI.
Durga Puja in Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal is famous for the extravagant pandals. Organizers are in a race to out-do each other. From replicas of famous architectural structures to eco-friendly ones and offbeat designs, some of the pandals are spectacular. In the pandemic year, here is a 'coronavirus' pandal in South Dinajpur district of West Bengal.
In Kolkata's Kumartuli, the traditional hub, where idols of Goddess Durga are made, artists are busy giving the final touches. The grandeur in decorations is missing, idols are smaller and the demand is significantly less but artists are still hopeful.
Traditionally during Durga Puja, new films hit the theatres in West Bengal and special puja songs are released. This year in a unique move, a collection of stills of Satyajit Ray's ''Sonar Kella' will be published in the autumn issue of 'Sandesh', a children's magazine. Ray's son, Sandip Ray told news agency PTI that the rare photos were taken in 1973 during the shooting of "Sonar Kella", where the legendary Soumitra Chatterjee immortalized Feluda.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said, cultural programmes in the state with a maximum of 150 people will be allowed during Durga Puja. The events must be held in open spaces she said.
Meanwhile a plea has been filed in the Calcutta High Court seeking directions to stop the Durga Puja celebrations in West Bengal in view of the pandemic, reported news agency ANI. According to the plea, the COVID-19 situation in the state is the same as it was in Kerala after Onam.