One of the most relevant Durga Pujo memes doing rounds this year was the one that showed a month and a half gap between Mahalaya and Saptami as if, maintaining social distancing. It was like the universe’s way of warning us, that this year, Pujo is not going to be the same! Every year Mahalaya comes with the first wave of autumn breeze in the air (what we Bengalis call Pujor gondho), the excitement rises up and the countdown begins! As soon as Bengalis all over the world hear the first song “Jaago, tumi jaago…” of the Mahishasur Mardini album, they know…now things are getting real! Outfits for each day are assigned, the hearts refuse to work in the office and keep wandering off, the Pujo fever sets in full fervour, and Bongs are ready for the five-day carnival!
This has been the tradition for ages. Until came the year 2020! And everyone’s world turned upside down. While the whole world has been discussing the economic downfall, loss of jobs, juggling working from home with working at home at the same time, the first concern that crossed a Bengali’s mind was, “Ebar Pujo hobe na?” (Won’t there be a Pujo this year?) That’s the level of craziness Bengalis are known for, when it comes to Durga Puja. There are so many Pujo related questions that you too must be losing your sleep over. What about the pandal-hopping? When and where do I wear new outfits? Do I skip Pujo shopping altogether? What about Pushpanjali, Bhoger Khichuri, adda with friends and cultural programs? Will there be really no Pujo at all? How are we supposed to deal with all of this without losing our minds?
Let’s try finding some ways to help you cope up with the crazy times we’re all living in. Let’s see how we can make the most of Durga Pujo 2020 in the best possible ways. Because, let’s face it, we can’t just sit & NOT do anything!
To be honest, one of the biggest blows that this year’s Pujo will face is the absence of idols and pandals. At least that’s the case in Delhi-NCR. In West Bengal permission for open spacious pandals has been granted with restricted entries of visitors. But not in Delhi. So, there will be sadly NO pandal-hopping this year. Think about the massive drop in the idol-making business that the local artisans will face this year.
How to deal with it: One of the ways to quench your pandal hopping thirst could be watching West Bengal’s pandals on TV or on live streaming channels. Ruminating on last year’s photographs and videos is yet another way to keep up the hope alive for next year. It’s definitely not ideal but think of it as watching your favourite old film. You’ve seen it before, but watching it again only makes you enjoy the nostalgia.
Puja & Pushpanjali
The actual Puja of Goddess Durga performed from Shashthi till Navami is the nucleus that is surrounded by all the fun traditions, shopping, eating and celebrations. The chanting of mantras to welcome Goddess Durga, and asking for her blessings through Pushpanjali (worshipping with flower petals) on Ashtami are one of the most eagerly awaited activities of Durga Pujo. Due to the pandemic, there won’t be any idols, pandals and therefore, no mass Pushpanjali in every little Pujo this year.
How to deal with it: However, many Puja committees throughout Delhi-NCR have found a digital solution to this crisis. As per Indrani Lahiri, the Cultural Secretary of “Antaranga Puja Samiti” in Mayur Vihar Phase 1, they plan on organising a temple Puja that will be performed by their priest using Goddess Durga’s photo. And there will be a live streaming of the Ashtami Puja the whole day on Antaranga Facebook page where devotees can offer Pushpanjali through the internet.
Rittika Misra from C.R. Park says, there will be only Ghot Puja (symbolic worshipping of Goddess Durga using an earthen pot) everywhere else, except for Kali Bari. At Kali Bari, it will be an idol puja where the idol is created inside the temple premises. No visitors will be allowed to enter, but everyone can witness Pujo and perform Pushpanjali through live streaming on their Facebook page.
Now comes a challenging part for all the shopaholics. And it’s not just any kind of shopping. Pujo shopping! No matter how many new dresses and shoes you buy throughout the year, Pujo shopping has its own share of significance. And now with this whole “new normal” scenario, has Pujo shopping totally lost its meaning? What’s the point of buying 10 new sarees if you have nowhere to go and no-one to show it to? True. But not quite.
How to deal with it: One thing that we’ve learned in these six months is how to use technology to our advantage. Webinars, video chats with family & friends, online classes, virtual parties…there is hardly any aspect we’ve left (or missed) because of social distancing. So why stop now? Like Ananda Dutta from Dilshad Garden suggests, “shop online, show off your new sarees and Kurtas by clicking selfies and posting them on Sarbajanin Durga Puja Facebook page!” Organise Pujo-special virtual parties with your loved ones. Even do a ramp walk in your living room…don’t let the pandemic dampen your spirits.
Weeks before the Pujo starts, there are a large number of pre-Pujo competitions, sports, and cultural activities that keep everyone across ages involved and entertained. Even during the Pujo, evenings are packed with all sorts of stage performances by local as well as celebrated artists from all over India. This whole cultural side of Durga Pujo seemed to have gone for a toss this year. No pandal obviously means no live performances. And sports activities are out of the question.
How to deal with it: Rittika Misra proudly says, “C. R. Park Kali Bari is doing everything they can to keep the traditions alive. Online music competitions, recitations, Sur Sangam shows…everything will be organised and participants can take part in them without stepping out of their homes. Judges will watch their live performances on a huge screen and that way, no one will feel they’re really missing out on anything”.
Indrani has made similar arrangements for “Antaranga Puja Samity”. She’s asked every enthusiastic performer to prepare dance, songs, and skits and send her their videos. The performances will be streaming on their Facebook page on Ashtami and Navami evenings. “Ours is a small Puja. But we’re trying our best to make the most of what we have,” says Indrani.
Ananda too is quite psyched about organizing live performances online. He even came up with this brilliant idea for the quiz & trivia enthusiasts. “Download an app like Kahoot so that everyone can play Pujo special trivia games & quizzes on their mobiles in real-time, and we can get a large number of participants involved in some fun games that way! All you got to do is log in to the Online Durga Puja 2020 Dilshad Garden Facebook page, and register yourself for any competitions or cultural activities!”
Food, Drinks & Adda
For Bengalis, festivals are largely about food. It’s not a celebration unless there are at least four to five courses of meals involved. Naturally, Durga Pujo is only the biggest food-festival every Bong awaits throughout the year. The chop-cutlet-roll-biryani stalls outside almost every Puja pandal are swarmed with foodie Bongs who do not get distracted by any other sounds or sights from inside the pandal. They’re focused and they only believe in attacking at the right target. Sadly, things won’t be the same for them, foodies! Also, with no pandal or Pujo this year, the scrumptious Bhoger Khichuri will be terribly missed.
How to deal with it: The closest solution is to organise a house party with a small group of friends. Order all your favourite Bengali dishes including Dimer-Debhil, Biryani, and whatnot, and have a Pujo-theme party. I understand it’s not the same. But it’s the only option you have this year. Play some beautiful Rabindra Sangeet in the background, open a few beers, and watch old Bengali movies together. Or simply indulge in pure Bangali adda!
Dakshinayan Pujo in Dwarka is arranging Bhog and putting up food stalls only for the residents. C. R. Park Kali Bari and a few other big Durga Pujo committees are thinking of delivering Bhoger Khichuri within a range of 2 km with some charge.
Friends Far Away From Home
Our Bong friends overseas too were quite heartbroken by the initial “No Pujo” possibilities. London Camden Durga Pujo Swiss Cottage Library, which organizes the oldest and one of the biggest Durga Pujas in the U.K every year with an average of 5-6k daily footfall. Sunbir Sanyal, the general secretary of Camden Pujo says, “this Pujo has been happening every year since 1963 and we just had to come up with some solution to deal with this year’s situation. So, we’re doing everything but on small scale. Pushpanjali, Sandhi Pujo, cultural functions, and a small Bijoya party…we will do everything but adhering to all the Govt. regulations. 30 people at a time will be allowed inside to see the idol, performance for a limited duration. There will be food stalls, artifact shops at the Puja Bazaar outside where visitors can window-shop or hang out Along with live streaming at our Facebook page, our entire Pujo will also be covered by our digital partner Jiyo Bangla. And what about Bhog? “We are planning to hand over packaged Bhog to a limited number of batches.”
Durga Pratima in Kolkata-2020
Now let’s a take a quick look at some of the Durga Pratimas in Kolkata, with an excusive touch of the year 2020.
There is a popular proverb in Bangla, “Naai Mamar Cheye Kana Mama Bhalo” which is the Bengali version of “Something is better than nothing” (better not ask the literal meaning!). There couldn’t be a better relevance of this adage than Durga Pujo 2020! It’s been a devastating year, and it’s not over yet. The only way to fight through this tough time is to try and find ways to keep up the Pujo spirit. So, buck up, because as we always say at Bijoya Dashami with heavy hearts, “Ashche Bochor Abar Hobe” (This shall happen again next year)!
|Maha Panchami||Wednesday||21 October 2020|
|Maha Sashti||Thursday||22 October 2020|
|Maha Saptami||Friday||23 October 2020|
|Maha Ashtami||Saturday||24 October 2020|
|Maha Navami||Sunday||25 October 2020|
|Vijaya Dashami||Monday||26 October 2020|
Durga Puja 2020 Days and Dates
So, how are you going to celebrate your Durga Pujo this year? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.