If there is one thing that every Bengali looks forward to every year, it is welcoming Durga Maa with much fanfare — exquisite clothing, food, music, dance, pandal hopping and meeting friends and family. However, since the pandemic struck and all social gatherings had to be sized down, most of the big pujo pandals have gone virtual, providing darshan to devotees online. Here’s a look at some of the biggest pandals this year:
Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, Haji Ali
The oldest Durga Pujo in the city, which is in its 92nd year, will allow online darshan. The Samiti believes in conducting the pujo with a “ghoroa”. Like last year, this year too, will be a ‘ghoroa pujo’ in the truest sense of the term as all devotees will get to enjoy the festival from the comfort and safety of their homes. The Samiti will have all the traditional pujos and rituals such as pushpanjali, aarti, Shondhi Pujo and Maa’er bhog and will digitally broadcast on social media platforms.
This will be the second time in 92 years of the puja tradition that there will be a ceremonial Ghot Pujo instead of a Murti Pujo. Ghot Pujo is an ancient tradition where an urn which symbolises the Goddess is worshipped. For the pujo, there will be two urns symbolising Maa Durga and her children.
With his year’s pujo being virtual, the Protima Committee has conceptualised a three-dimensional mural, which is made of clay and hay by an artisan from the interiors of Kolkata. The mural will be adorned with traditional ‘Shola pith’ — an eco-friendly and biodegradable material.
Speaking about the mural, Paromita Banerjee and Dola Banerjee, who are the joint convenors of the Protima Committee, said, “The colour of the mural is that of clay. The overall look is a pristine white ‘Shola pith’ colour with intricate work on the saree and headgear.”
True to the Bengali culture, the Samiti has organised various cultural programmes during the five-day festival, including a sitar recital; a specially curated discussion commemorating 100 years of the birth of legendary filmmaker and author Satyajit Ray; and a musical evening by Kolkatar Gaanwala.
Mitali Poddar, chairperson of Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, said, “As an organisation, the Samiti has always believed in promoting performing arts and artistes from diverse backgrounds. The programmes organised by the Samiti continue to reflect the cultural ethos of India. Due to the pandemic, our programmes will be digitally live-streamed to our viewers and there will be no physical attendees.”
Talking about the spirit of the Samiti members, Susmita Mitra, president of the Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, said, “While the pandemic has derailed the best laid plans, what has blessedly remained unchanged is the spirit, enthusiasm and dedication with which our members consistently work at making the Samiti a premier, non-sectarian, cultural and charitable organisation in Mumbai.”
Being the oldest pujo in the city, the Bombay Durga Bari Samiti has certainly carried on its legacy into the virtual space too. You can watch the festivity and have darshan on:
October 12, 2021- MAHA SAPTAMI
Evening- 7 pm
October 13, 2021-MAHA ASHTAMI
Morning - 7:30 am
Evening- 7 pm
October 14, 2021-MAHA NABAMI
Morning - 7:30 am
Evening- 7 pm
October 15, 2021-DASHAMI/DASSERA
Morning - 8 am
The North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja, Juhu
Hosted by the Mukherjee family, which includes Kajol, Tanisha Mukerji, Tanuja, Rani Mukerji and filmmaker Ayan Mukerji, the North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Pujo will be streamed online for devotees this year. Fearing that crowded pandals may turn out to be super spreaders in a city that has just officially opened up its public spaces, the association members have chosen to take the festivities to the people through live streaming and social media. Physical darshan is only for members, who have been asked to follow all protocols such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing while visiting the pandal in the time allotted to them. Live darshan can be accessed on their Facebook page: North Bombay Durga Puja.
Banga Maitri Sansad, Santacruz
The Banga Maitri Sansad is a socio-cultural charitable trust, which was established in 1947, making it one of the oldest Pujos in Mumbai, with this year being its 74th. Since its establishment in 1947, the Banga Maitri Sansad, or BMS, as it is popularly known, has been celebrating Durgotsav under the aegis of ‘The North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja’.
As COVID has not ended, the Sansad has decided to scale down the festivities this year too — no stalls, no cultural programmes or bhog distribution. While the pujo will be performed physically, all rituals will be carried out in strict adherence to the SOPs issued by the state government and the municipal authority. The pujo will be live-streamed on their social media handles.
Sharing a message for all devotees, Debabrata Mitra, president of the Banga Maiti Sansad, said, “Please enjoy the festival but don’t forget to abide by SOPs — wear a mask, maintain social distance and use sanitiser. Make this festive season a happy and joyful one for you and your family."
The Sansad has also been fulfilling its commitment towards social need by carrying out various charitable works for the past 74 years. They have been supporting families and social organisations affected by the pandemic; traditional drummers (dhakis) and purohits, an integral part of the BMS Durga Puja for many years, whose livelihoods were severely impacted by the pandemic, have been supported by the Sansad.
You can watch the pujo live on their Facebook page: Banga Maitri Sansad and also on their website: www.bangamaitrisansad.in
Bengal Club, Dadar
Another old pandal of Mumbai, the Bengal Club, which was established in 1922, will conduct a virtual pujo this year too. Mrinal Purkayastha, the secretary of the club, said, “There will be no physical darshan this year. We are strictly adhering to the protocols laid down by the government and the BMC. Only those who are working at the club and the panditji will be present during the pujo rituals. The pujo will be broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube for all devotees.”
The live streaming can be viewed on: Facebook page: Bengal Club Shivaji Park; YouTube channel: Bengal Club Shivaji Park
Navi Mumbai Bengali Association, Vashi
The NMBA Durga Pujo in Vashi, one of Navi Mumbai’s biggest Durga pujos, will celebrate the festival on its original premises this year, but without the usual fanfare. Partha Sarthi Basu, general secretary of the Navi Mumbai Bengali Association, said, “We will celebrate the pujo on our association premises as usual. However, we will follow all COVID protocols for the safety of our members. Since we have been asked to prevent huge gatherings, we have decided not to have any physical darshan this year. We are following all the guidelines — the idol size is of 4 ft; there will be no pushpanjali since we can’t offer flowers or take flowers from devotees to avoid any physical contact; we won’t cook bhog, instead we will get it prepared from outside, offer to Maa Durga and then send the bhog to our devotees’ homes.”
Devotees can also have prasad delivered to their home. “We have tied up with a local sweet vendor who will facilitate all our devotees to receive prasad in their homes. Once you make an online payment to the vendor, we will have the prasad offered here during Puja which will then be delivered to your home.” Even though physical darshan is not allowed, devotees can view the pujo live on the association’s website: www.nmba.in
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)