durga puja 2020

My Home, My Pandal — A Reclusive Durga Puja This Year

Durga Puja, the once in a year mega festival in Kolkata never fails to rejuvenate, amaze, throw all reservations to the winds and join the 4-day-long extravaganza all over the city. Everyone in Kolkata avidly starts waiting for a full year for the next Puja as soon as Puja ends in a year.

Durga Puja is not so much about religion in Kolkata but a social festival. Or, shall we say Durga Puja is a religion for every Bengali?

Durga Puja is especially the time for the homecoming of the migrant Bengalis, and a much sought after period of fun and frolic for every child, and the young at heart.

The Economic Impact of Durga Puja    

The festival season in India accounts for the major share of transactions in the Indian economy. Almost every consumer-facing business looks forward to the festival season for the lion’s share of its annual sales.

In Kolkata, Durga Puja contributes massively to the economy by increasing business as well as creating jobs. Even before the Puja starts, the preparation works provide a large number of jobs to the decorators and artisans. In fact, some people actually migrate from rural Bengal to Kolkata during this period. This year, the cyclone Amphan has devastated the rural infrastructure, in addition to idol making studios of Kumartuli and all of them were looking forward to Durga Puja to recoup some of their losses.

The small business owners, the salaried workers hoping for Puja bonus, the shopping centre workers expecting some incentives; in short, almost everyone in Kolkata hopes Durga Puja festival will oil the wheels of the economy.

But this year, in view of the extended lockdown, a large part of the economy got bruised. Will Durga Puja apply some balms to the despairing souls?

The Milieu that Rejuvenates the Soul of Kolkata

The ubiquitous pandals and the idols of Kolkata are not only amazing installation art (Annual Puja Carnival at Red Road is testimony to it) but they create magic with a unique environment. Offering pushpanjali in the morning, watching Sandhi Puja, or just joining an adda in the pandal, and the soulful sindoor khela — every pandal comes alive even before Maha Sashthi these days and continues even after Dashami in many areas. The smell of incense, the sounds of laughter, and the food stalls create an atmosphere of easy friendliness which is rare to find anywhere else exactly like Kolkata.

These are the days when Kolkata gets transformed and every pandal becomes the centre of community gathering in every locality.

durga puja at home

However, this year is different as avoiding any crowd is essential for your safety from Covid-19. We must reimagine our involvement in the Puja with a different, home-based, somewhat isolated engagement.

Go Online to Participate Virtually

The absence of pandal-hopping or joining addas in pandals doesn’t mean that you have to cut off from it all. You can watch the most famous pujas in Kolkata online. Some pujas will be live-streamed on YouTube and shared on social media. Even pujas at Belur Math will be live-streamed this year. Some pujas have also installed large screens outside the pandals so that the visitors can watch happenings in a scattered way.

Why Not Make Your Home Like Your Local Pandal?

While it is extremely important for the Pujas to take place for valid economic reasons, it is also important that you avoid any crowded puja pandal.

Any crisis gives us the opportunity to bring out our imaginative best. Instead of feeling downbeat, we can convert our homes into mini pandals, joyful with a lot of laughter and happiness, with all the creative décor, bright illumination, and of course, great food which is a signature of Bengali homes.

This will be especially loved by the little ones as they are finding it quite difficult to cope with long ‘no school’ periods, with virtually no interaction with friends. The effort will give them an engagement, and they will happily participate in it as children are naturally creative.

Durga Puja, unlike some other festivals, is more social in nature. This year we must make it more personal, more of a family celebration.

Maybe, we will rediscover that the essence of any festival is happiness and sharing happiness with the family first. Probably we will hear the call of devotion in our hearts when we look inward, avoiding the noise and the crowd.

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