Never ever during it’s over 1,000 years of existence, Cuttack city in Odisha witnessed such a silent Durga Puja as is being observed this year amidst the COVID-19 scare.
The millennium city has a history of its own Durga Puja and Cuttack has never missed a celebration even during the major cyclones. However, the scenario has completely changed this time.
Similar is the situation in Bhubaneswar and across the state as Durga Puja is being observed silently in homes and people could hardly go out to offer puja to the Mother Goddess.
The usual fun, frolic and religious fervor associated with Maha Ashtami, considered the most auspicious of the four days of Durga Puja, was barely visible on Saturday.
Though some people out of devotion visited the pandals, they could not see the idol of the Goddess as the doors remained closed for the devotees due to COVID-19 guideline.
However, some puja pandals, including one on Jharpada in Bhubaneswar, organized virtual puja giving an opportunity to the people to see the Goddess online.
There was no usual rush near pandals and the most important “Sandhi Puja” was held in closed pandals.
The traditional Kumari Puja, a ritual in which a girl of less than eight years of age is worshipped as Goddess Durga, was not performed by many pandals.
In Pithas like in Maa Biraja, Maa Sarala, Maa Bimala, Maa Ambika temples also remained closed for the devotees leading to frustration among the devotees.
“I have been visiting Cuttack Chandi and Maa Bimala Temple for the last 30 years, but not this time. I am utterly frustrated and mentally harassed for being able to see the Mother in eyes,” said Sulochana Mohapatra, a 60-year-old woman of Cuttack city.
A 20 year-old engineering student Litun Pradhan, who is back at home since the outbreak of pandemic, however, said: “I feel to have overstayed at home. As college is closed, we are unable to concentrate on studies. The annual Durga puja also passed away silently.”
There was no light decoration, music or melody party which are major parts of the puja celebration.
Similarly in Baripada, Maa Ambika, Presiding Deity of Mayurbhanj was worshiped in a quiet manner as devotees were not allowed inside the temple. A Senior Advocate, Swarupananda Kar, an ardent devotee rued as he was not able to go inside the temple on the wee hours of Ashtami Day as earlier years.
Every day he used to visit temple worship Maa Ambika in the wee hours. He appreciated that Temple Prists are following COVID 19 Guidelines in true spirit.
The tribal tradition in the Chhatar Jatra of Goddess Manikeswari in Bhawanipatna also concluded on Saturday without the participation of devotees.
Though the procession of the Maa Manikeswari was held after midnight, there were no devotees on the streets. No devotee was allowed to enter into the temple nor to take part in rituals during the event.
The State Government has further tightened the COVID-19 norms after it was felt that the infection increased three fold after Onam festival in Kerala.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has given a call to the people to adhere to the COVID-19 guideline during the festival. He also asked the administration to enforce the norms in view of the public health.