A good number of Hindu devotees flocked to different puja mandaps in the capital on Sunday, maintaining health guidelines to celebrate Maha Nabami, one of the auspicious days of Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindu community.
This year, Durga Puja, is being observed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. So, the environment is quite unfamiliar to worshipers.
The five-day festival started with "Bodhon" of Goddess Durga while the festival will end with the immersion of the idols of Durga in the nearby rivers and waterbodies across the country on today (Monday).
Swapan Kumar Majumder, general secretary of the Khamarbari Temple Committee, told The Business Standard (TBS), "We thought the number of visitors would not be so high but since Thursday, the number of visitors has exceeded our expectations."
Approximately 8,000-10,000 visitors are coming every day. We urge the visitors to adhere to the rules of hygiene, he added.
He said many people are maintaining the hygiene rules while many people are not following social distancing.
Meanwhile, Nabami event started at the Khamarbari Chattar Mandir in the capital on Sunday morning with some restrictions due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The distribution of "Mahaprasad" was stopped due to health concerns.
A devotee named Sajal Roy, a private service holder, who visited Khamarbari temple, told TBS, "Other times, I used to go to the mandapa for all the five days but this time I have visited for only two days. As this is our biggest festival, I have come to the mandap."
On the Nabami, the farewell bell rings as only after one day, the ten-armed goddess Durga will return to Kailash, leaving all devotees crying. This time the goddess has come on a palanquin and will return on an elephant.
On the Nabami, Kalparambha and Mahanabami's puja were observed from 5:17 am to 7:30 am, Dashami puja and Darpan Niranjan at 9:56 am. On this day, the Goddess is sacrificed, marking fire as a symbol.
Agni (fire) carries the sacrifices of all the Gods and delivers them to the right place. This is the last day of Durga Puja. The next day is just a day of victory and sacrifice.
Regarding mother Durga's coming on a palanquin, the scriptures say, "Epidemics, earthquakes, wars, catastrophes, droughts will cause innumerable deaths, and at the same time there will be losses."
As a result of the goddess's departure on an elephant, the water level in the earth is maintained and the grain yield is good.
This time there was no "Kumari Puja" in Dhaka to avoid public gatherings to prevent Covid-19 infection. "Kumari Puja" is held at several places including Ramakrishna Mission in Dhaka where 30,000-35,000 devotees gather and offerings are distributed among them.
A student at the Bangladesh University of Engineering, Nirupama Debnath, a visitor at the Dhakeswari temple, told TBS, "Out of the fear due to the pandemic, I have come out of the house only today [Sunday] to visit puja mandaps. Since it is more crowded in the afternoon, I came around noon. I will leave again after a while. I never thought I would have to observe puja in such a situation."
At the Dhakeswari National Temple in the capital, "Prasad" was arranged for about 25,000 people every year but this time it has been cancelled. This decision applies to all, said the Mohanagar Sarbojanin Puja Committee (MSPC).
MSPC president Shailen Majumder told TBS, "Every day, 10,000-12,000 visitors come to our Dhakeswari temple. They are celebrating with great joy. We are taking the issue of hygiene very seriously. I am giving masks to those who forget to bring masks. There is a system for hand sanitising. We have made every effort to do so."
Meanwhile, various religious ceremonies have been shortened this year due to the pandemic. Puja mandaps are closed after "Aarti" in the evening. There are no cultural programmes and "Dhunuchi" dance competitions. Vijaya Dashami procession too has been banned considering health risks.
In the scriptures, Goddess Durga protects the devotees from obstacles, fears, sorrows, irritations and torments. The scribes have interpreted the name Durga as "the one who can be gained through sufferings". The goddess tests human endurance with grief. When people call her without being restless, she removes his troubles. The right time for Durga Puja is spring.
However, King Ramchandra fell into misery and worshipped the goddess in the autumn. Since then, despite being untimely, Durga Puja was observed in the autumn.
Shubhashish Biswas Sadhan, organising secretary of the Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad, told TBS Durga Puja is being held in 30,223 mandaps across the country this year.
Last year, the number of Durga Puja mandaps in the country was 31,398.
On the other hand, there are 233 puja mandaps in Dhaka this year. Last year the number was 237. And, there are 740 pujas in Dhaka district.
The five-day Durga Puja will end on Monday morning with the immersion of the idol after darpan immersion.