By Ms. Mainkuntala Chowdhury
Nature unveils her beauty as the Autumn season approaches. Amidst the fragrance of scented flower bright sky and mellowing breeze Durga puja the biggest Hindu festival is celebrated.
Goddess Durga is the embodiment of divine energy. Divine mother is worshipped to win over the negativity present in each one of us as her idol depicts divine mother killing the “asura” or demon symbolizing our negative tendencies. However ,the mythological reference surpasses the actual celebration of the festival .Glittering lights, decorated pandals, Idol of mother goddess and other deities, huge crowd, offering of flower and leaves of banyan tree, beating of drum, distribution of Prasad and above all joy and happiness of the people of all age groups irrespective of caste and creed mark the celebration of Durga Puja.
The rituals are also interwoven with gaiety and grandeur of the three day’s celebration. Starting from collection of donation to visiting puja pandals from one location to other by the huge number of devotees, parting cooked prasad” khichri” to tearful farewell to mother goddess till the next year during immersion ceremony speak a lot about the devotion as well as bondage and goodwill that exists among the members of the community.
The 3 – day grand celebration also has an impact on the livelihood of a large number of people. The sculpture awaits the whole year to give the final shape of the idols. The drum beaters eagerly wait to perform at various pandals. The garment shops expect to have a grand yearly sale. The flower vendor collects fresh flowers for the rituals. An upcoming artist looks forward to mesmerizing the devotees with his craftmanship.
Durga puja is celebrated both in Assam and Meghalaya along with the rest of the country and outside with traditional fervor every year. However , this year Covid pandemic has marred the festive mood of the people this year as both the government’s have issued elaborate SOP to prevent the spread of Covid.
66 -year old Monoj Sengupta, a dynamic member of a puja committee in Shillong expressed his regret for not being able to be present as people above 65 yrs are not allowed to participate.
Ms. Maya Dhar looks disappointed as she says,”This year we can not have “sindoor daan” that is an exchange of vermillion among ladies considered to be an auspicious event .” 23 – year old Naba Borgohain of Guwahati could not control his emotion as he said ” We will not get an opportunity to be with the idol of Maa Durga during immersion ceremony as there are restrictions from Govts side for mass participation and procession” Young boys and girls are disappointed as they will not be able to go late night pandal hopping . Puja pandals will close down at 9 pm in Shillong and Guwahati .
Night curfew will be on from 10pm.Mr Suresh Agarwal the owner of a restaurant in Guwahati looks devastated.” Govt issued SOP to close all restaurants by 9 pm.Every year maximum people come to have food during late night after visiting the pandals. This year all delicious food will go to waste. I have decided to give my restaurant on lease after the pujas ” said Agarwal.
Jeremy Lyngdoh, a young khasi boy from Shillong, looks quite disappointed as he says” we don’t take part in rituals but love to visit the pandals. This year we will not be able to visit because only 50 people are allowed to be present inside the pandal”. .
Covid pandemic has cast a gloom in the familiar festive mood of the people from all sections of the society .Govt of both Meghalaya and Assam are being extra cautious not to indulge any lapse in the strict adherence of SOP.
Under the extraordinary situation this year worship of mother goddess will be a subdued affair both in spirit and action. Madhurima an ardent devotee almost cried in desperation saying,” I will pray to Ma Durga that such a situation never comes in future”. Let’s hope that Madhurima’s prayer will be answered and the tyranny of coronavirus will stop across the world.
With just two days to go for the biggest festival of the region not even a single pandal has been erected nor any sound of the drum – beaters heard .
In Guwahati with the festive of Durga Puja, the market gets flooded with different varieties of new trends of all sorts, be it Fancy Bazaar or shopping malls the customers rush to grab their choice before the stock gets over.
But this time around , the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped away the enthusiasm of the people and the markets are affected as people are scared to go to markets for puja shopping.
On the one hand, there is COVID-19 pandemic and on the other the online shopping has also attracted the customers hampering the physical markets.
With the growing numbers of online shopping portals with various products available from household products to clothes to accessories it has become easier for the people for shopping rather than to go to market by spending the valuable time.