Maha Navami celebrated across Bengal, revellers throng pandals amid rain forecast
COVID safety norms went for a toss with huge crowds hitting the streets to witness the breath-taking spectacle of innovative theme-based pujas as the five-day festivities reached a crescendo on Thursday. The idols will be immersed on Bijoya Dashami on Friday.
In the evening, Kolkata's roads became choked as thousands of revellers went outdoors to soak in the festive spirits, despite the India Meteorological Department forecasting rain in south Bengal on Maha Navami and Bijoya Dashami.
The religious rituals of Maha Navami or the ninth lunar day began after the conclusion of the Sandhi Puja. People participated in community feasts after 'bhog' was offered to the Goddess.
From Beleghata Sandhani and Jagat Mukherjee Park in north Kolkata to Babu Bagan, Hindustan Park and Bosepukur Talbagan in the southern part of the city, the turnout increased with each passing hour in the evening as revellers craned their necks to see the idols inside the marquees from the barricaded 10-metre distance.
Although the crowd was thinner than pre-COVID times, it was much higher than last year, organisers and police said.
Despite the law enforcers and the puja organisers repeatedly urging people over loudspeakers to abide by COVID safety norms, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, many revellers were seen moving around without masks, raising health concerns.
''Last year, there was hardly any crowd at puja pandals. But this year, most of the people who have been inoculated have hit the streets. We are doing our part urging people to abide by safety norms,'' Forum for Durgotsab president Kajal Sarkar said.
The Burj Khalifa pandal of Sreebhumi Sporting Club wore a deserted look after police on Wednesday night made it out of bounds for people as massive turnout at this year's biggest draw sparked fears of spread of COVID-19.
The move of the Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate came a day after the Sreebhumi organisers suspended their laser show as it was attracting massive crowds in front of the pandal. The law enforcers barricaded the entire stretch to prevent revellers from visiting the marquee.
The West Bengal government had recently issued advisories, asking revellers to adhere to health safety guidelines to prevent a rise in COVID-19 cases.
This year, though, the court has permitted puja rituals like 'Anjali', 'Arati' and 'Sindur Khela' inside the marquees while directing that the relaxation will be subject to a cap on the maximum number of persons allowed and compliance with conditions like double vaccination and wearing of masks.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)