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Durga Puja to be celebrated at 30,223 mandaps in Bangladesh,No Kumari Puja in Dhaka amid coronavirus pandemic

Easterntimes, Dhaka, 17 October: The Hindu community’s largest religious festival Durga Puja will be celebrated at some 30,223 puja mandaps across the Bangladesh, said community leaders.

The number of Puja mandaps were Decreased by 1,175 from previous year, according to the statistics of Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad. Last year, 31,398 puja were celebrated.

The Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad has announced that there will be no programmes to celebrate Kumari Puja in Dhaka due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The Kumari Puja festivities will not be held at puja marquees in Dhaka considering the coronavirus situation. However, it may take place in other parts of the country,” Milon Kanti Dutta, president of Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad, said on Saturday.

There have been reports of idols being vandalised in ‘one or two places’, he added.

On Aug 26, the Puja Udjapon Parishad issued a 26-point directives to hold the puja in line with the government’s health protocols. Later, another 7-point order was issued on Oct 8, following a meeting with the home minister.

The Durga Puja, the largest religious festival of the Hindu community, is a part of Bengali secular culture and tradition, which has to be scaled down this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Nirmal Kumar Chatterjee, general secretary of Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad. “We are just calling it ‘Durga Puja’ and not ‘Durga Puja Festival’ this time.”

The puja will be held in keeping the government’s order but without any cultural programmes this year.

The organisers were asked to livestream the rituals of Anjali on Facebook.

“A maximum of 50 people can gather for the rituals of Anjali and the puja mandap or premises must be closed by 9 pm,” Nirmal said.

The procession on Dashami or the last day of the puja and distribution of prasad (devotional offering of food items) has already been banned.

According to Hindu scripture, Mahalaya, Bodhon and Sandhi Puja are the three components of Durga Puja.

Mahalaya is an invitation to the mother goddess to her parental home. This is done through the chanting of psalms and singing of devotional songs.

The ceremony marks the beginning of Devi-Paksha and the end of Pitri-Paksha. The devotees pray and offer food for the salvation of their ancestors’ souls during a portion of the Pitri-Paksha, which is called ‘Tarpan’.

The main Durga Puja celebrations will begin on Oct 23 this year. It is scheduled to end on Oct 26.

That means the Durga Puja will be held over a period of 35 days, instead of the usual seven days, after Mahalaya.

Organisers have been directed by the government to enforce safety protocols in puja marquees, including social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-sanitising norms.

The directives also include discouraging visitors from visiting to puja marquees in the evening. No procession to immerse idols of will be allowed this year.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued an order on Oct 12 banning the distribution of prasad during the Durga Puja in a bid to prevent any gathering.

Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad formed a central monitoring cell and asked its branches to form their own monitoring cells.

This year the puja will be limited to religious rituals at the temples. Earlier this year, the celebration of Janmashtami, another religious festival of the Hindu community held on Aug 11, was scaled down too along with the Bengali New Year and Eid celebration

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