Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Bangalee Hindu community, begins today with Maha Sashthi puja at temples across the country amid festivity and religious fervor following the prescribed health guidelines in face of the global pandemic coronavirus.
The five-day long Durga Puja celebration will begin with the unveiling of the face of the deity and Kalparambho on the day of Maha Sashthi on October 22 and conclude on October 26 with the immersion of the idols.
The incarnation (Bodhon) of the Goddess Durga was held yesterday at temples ahead of the puja on Maha Panchami.
Maha Saptami puja will be performed on Friday, Maha Ashtami, Kumari Puja and Sandhi Puja on Saturday and Maha Nabami Puja on Sunday.
The Mahalaya, the auspicious occasion heralding the advent of goddess Durga, was celebrated on September 17 last.
Leaders of Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad urged all to strictly maintain the health guidelines and directives issued by the government in the wake of the global pandemic COVID-19 during the Durga Puja celebration.
In Dhaka city, the main puja mandaps are Dhakeshwari National Temple, Ramkrishna Mission and Math, Kalabagan, Banani, Shakhari Bazar and Ramna Kali Mandir.
Durga Puja signifies the birth of Durga with the blessings of gods, as a collective energy, to fight the demon king Mahishasura.
Exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up at temples and Durga Puja pandals.
These idols are then worshiped for five days and immersed in the river on the fifth day. The puja is performed in temples, homes and in the public, featuring temporary stage decorations.
The celebrations also include other major deities of Hinduism such as goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, prosperity), Saraswati (goddess of knowledge and music), Ganesha (god of good beginnings) and Kartikeya (god of war).
This year, Durga Puja have been arranged at 7014 mandaps in Dhaka division while at 3906 mandaps in Chattogram, 4689 in Khulna, 2646 in Sylhet, 1584 in Mymensingh, 1701 in Barishal, 5250 in Rangpur and 3435 in Rajshahi division.
Recently Health Services Division issued directives for maintaining health guidelines during the Durga Puja in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.
According to the instructions, one has to maintain health guidelines, including social distancing, using hand sanitizer and wearing mask while entering the puja mandap.
Hand washing facilities, sanitizers and thermal scanner should be ensured at the entry points of puja mandaps.
No procession will be allowed at the time of immersion of the goddess Durga. Prashad distribution, arati (dance competition) and cultural festivals should be avoided.
Earlier on October 4, the Home Ministry gave some instructions to ensure the security of the puja mandaps and maintain law and order.
The Puja Udjapan Committees are asked to dial 999 for emergency help or support, if needed.
Besides, the Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad sent directives to puja celebration committees across the country.
In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no programmes to celebrate the Kumari Puja in Dhaka as part of this year's Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindus.
Additionally, the Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad (BPUP) announced that mandaps (pavilions) across the country will be closed every day during the puja at 9pm.
However, no decision has been taken yet on the rituals of the Bijoya Dashami, which involves mass gatherings and rallies, BPUP President Milon Kanti Dutta said during a media call at the Dhakeshwari temple.
He said Kumari Puja is usually held on the eighth day of Durga Puja at Ramakrishna Mission in Dhaka. But there will be no Kumari Puja this year considering the coronavirus situation in Dhaka. However, it may take place in one or two areas outside Dhaka.
Security has been beefed up in all Puja pandals throughout the country, including the capital, with the deployment of additional squads of Ansars, police, RAB and other law enforcers for peaceful celebration of the festival.
Besides, voluntary groups will also perform duties at the puja pandals.