With COVID-19 Guidelines Aplenty, How Kolkata is Celebrating Pujo

Ayan Dawn
·3-min read

It won’t entirely be an exaggeration to say that one can feel the pulse of Kolkata through Durga Pujo.

This year, however, that beat is different. With lesser people on the streets, no-entry on pandal premises, there is absence of mirth in the air and the lifeless sounds of dhak make it seem like it is any other month of the year.

In these extraordinary circumstances, the city of joy is celebrating a doleful Pujo amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Calcutta High Court has ordered all pandals to be declared no-entry zones. There should be no-entry boards on the barricade, it has said.

Barricades at Mudiali Club pandal at South Kolkata.
Barricades at Mudiali Club pandal at South Kolkata.
Barricades at Tridhara, Ballygunge.
Barricades at Tridhara, Ballygunge.

According to the order, 15 persons are to be allowed in smaller pandals, while 60 people are allowed for large ones. Traditional drummers – popularly known as Dhakis – will be allowed to perform just outside the no-entry zone.

Dhakis at Tridhara pandal.
Dhakis at Tridhara pandal.

All the protocols and guidelines are being followed by the Pujo committees. Circles are being drawn inside pandal premises for social distancing. The volunteers are making sure that safe distance is maintained.

Sanitization tunnels are being set up to ensure more safety and staggered entry is being followed as much as possible. People are taking the necessary safety measures for enjoying the festivities responsibly.

A man goes through a sanitization tunnel at Sobhabajar, Rajbhari.
A man goes through a sanitization tunnel at Sobhabajar, Rajbhari.
A little girl sanitises her hands before pujo celebrations in Chitpur Road, North Kolkata.
A little girl sanitises her hands before pujo celebrations in Chitpur Road, North Kolkata.
Social distancing circles near the idol in Buro Shibtala, Ballygunge.
Social distancing circles near the idol in Buro Shibtala, Ballygunge.
Selfie time at Hatibagan.
Selfie time at Hatibagan.

Losses for Committees and Small Businesses

While the decision of the high court is a welcome one, Pujo organisers and committees are in a fix. On one hand, maintaining the safety of all devotees and organisers is the need of the hour, but on the other, committees are staring at huge financial losses this year.

Empty pandal premises in Bagbajar.
Empty pandal premises in Bagbajar.
Food vendor outside Bagbajar.
Food vendor outside Bagbajar.
Bagbajar pandal.
Bagbajar pandal.
Pujo pandal at narrow by lane at Dum Dum.
Pujo pandal at narrow by lane at Dum Dum.

The court order also comes as a death-blow for small businesses such as food stalls, which usually set up shop near pandals during the festival.

Bhel puri seller Shyamal Kar says, “This is the time when we earn whatever profit we can. This time I have experienced heavy loss. I do not know what to do.”

Pandals that have organised fairs are also into losses, as they witness little human presence.

Empty stall at the pandals in Naktala.
Empty stall at the pandals in Naktala.
Empty stall at the pandals in Naktala.
Empty stall at the pandals in Naktala.
Empty stall at the pandals in Naktala.
Empty stall at the pandals in Naktala.

Further, the pressure on restaurants and shopping malls to accommodate more people increases. After being denied entry to pandals, people are flocking towards shopping malls and restaurants to soak in the Pujo spirit.

Outside Acropolis Mall.
Outside Acropolis Mall.
Acropolis Mall.
Acropolis Mall.

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