As the tarpan gathering was huge, it was difficult for authorities to ensure that everyone wore masks and maintained social distance
The festive season started in West Bengal from Thursday with the Vishwakarma Puja and the Mahalaya. Durga Puja, however, is still a month away.
Thousands of people performed tarpan—a ritual offering prayers to departed ancestors on Mahalaya—at the ghats along River Hooghly. The police and civic officials had made arrangements and maintained strict vigil since the early hours to ensure that people wore masks and maintain social distance while performing the tarpan.
“But as the gathering was huge, it was difficult to ensure that everyone wore masks and maintained social distance,” said a senior police officer who was present at one of the ghats.
Meanwhile puja organisers in Kolkata have come up with a set of guidelines on how the week-long festival that starts around October 22 could be held amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The challenge will be huge, specially after what we saw in videos of tarpan that were circulating on social media on Thursday . Most people didn’t wear masks and there was hardly any social distancing,” said a puja organsier.
The state government will hold a meeting with prominent puja organisers on September 25 to finalise crowd management plans and other aspects of the festival this year.
“We have already come up with an informal list of dos and don’ts for the members to follow. That needs to be finalised,” said Saswata Bau, general secretary of the Forum for Durgotsab.
Here is what you can expect this time
- As the economy has been hit, organisers are slashing their budgets drastically. So expect a simple puja sans the grandeur and elaborate festivities
- The height of pandal and idol will be smaller. This will ease sanitisation of the pandal and idol at least once a day. There will be special sanitisation facilities for visitors on Saptami, Astami and Nabami when the crowds peak.
- Interior decorations will be kept at a minimum to avoid people gathering inside pandals. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has urged pandals should be airy and open. Not more than 25 people will be allowed at one time inside a pandal.
- Long barricades will be placed at the entry gates so that queues can be formed which in turn would help maintain social distancing. Visitors will have to wear masks and sanitise their hands.
- There will be minimum lighting so that people don’t gather only at night to see the elaborate lighting.
- Food stalls will be erected with a gap of at least 3-4 feet between them. No one will be allowed to sit. Only takeaways will be allowed.
- Rules of social distancing during rituals like sandhi puja, pushpanjali and sindur khela will have to be followed. Sliced fruits will not be allowed as bhog, whole fruits may be offered.