The Ekdalia Evergreen pandal stands at the confluence of broad, airy roads in South Kolkata. The lights along the roads are not as extravagant as previous years, but they are enough to put visitors in a festive mood. One of the hoarding lights says, ‘Asche bochor abar hobe’, as if in resignation. The saying means ‘Coming year, we will do it all over again’ and is reserved for the last day of the Puja on Dashami.
Tens of people walk down the roads to the pandal with enough space for social distancing. Fifty people can easily stand outside the barricades of the pandal without crowding. However, this is a shocking sight for those who pandal-hop religiously every year. “These places are so crowded usually, you don’t have space for your feet,” says 45-year-old Seema Chakraborty, who came by bus from Bansdroni with her friends. “We have been seeing Durga Puja from our childhood. We usually have to push through huge crowds to see pandals. The madness starts from Tritiya itself. In comparison, this is empty,” she adds.
Ekdalia Evergreen is one of the most popular Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata. The pandal has been set up in such a way that visitors are able to see the idols even while respecting Kolkata High Court’s order banning pandal entry for visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Every year we go inside and see the artwork, the chandelier, the decorations in detail. This time of course, that’s not allowed,” says Chakraborty. But she is happy with the guidelines that have deterred crowds amid a pandemic. “If it was crowded like other years, we would not be able to go out,” she adds.
As the West Bengal government has allowed Durga Puja celebrations in the state, the city’s markets were flooded with last-minute shoppers. This led to the state government ordering last Sunday that hawkers in Hatibagan and Gariahat would have to shut shop at 2 pm. The weekend saw massive crowds kicking off Puja festivities by flocking to pandals such as the...