Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindu community, began on Monday with Maha Sashthi puja in temples, homes and in public, featuring temporary stage decorations in Jharsuguda, Brajrajnagar, Belpahar and Bandhbahal in the district, following Covid-19 safety guidelines.The district administration has banned immersion procession, religious ceremonies like dandiya nights and other cultural programmes. Sources said some puja committees have cancelled celebrations and some have decided to do a 'Ghata Puja' (worshipping an urn symbolising goddess) this year.The rules remain that height of the idols be less than four feet and front portion of pandal be covered.
That apart, not more than seven persons be allowed inside pandal to perform puja formalities of Maa Durga. The idols should be immersed in a special pond created for purpose. "We are working as per instructions of administration. Devotees are being sanitized at all entry points and nobody is being allowed inside pandal without masks," said Om Shri Puja Committee, Sarbahal, general secretary, Raju Panigrahi. The committee organises one of most visited Puja Pandals in Jharsuguda industrial town.This year Kalibari Durga Committee will mark its 63rd Puja celebration. TK Roy Chowdhury, a senior member of Kalibari Durga Puja Committee, said, "We would be following all Covid protocols during the celebrations. We have decided to drop a lot of elements of celebration this year. There wouldn't be any loud music and Sindur khela on Vijayadashami this year. There would be only one priest and only seven devotees would be allowed in the pandal at a time." Superintendent of Police BC Dash said pandals should be spacious and overcrowding should be avoided. Organisers should also arrange for adequate masks and sanitisers.