West Bengal all set to begin its virtual pandal-hopping this Durga Puja
- At least two big-ticket pujas in the city have announced that outsiders won't be allowed this time
- However, some puja organisers have opened their doors to welcome the devotees
- Mamata Banerjee announced that people can start visiting marquees 3 days before the puja rituals begin
Several pandal committees have arranged virtual 'darshan' for the devotees of Goddess Durga this year as the number of COVID-19 cases grows in West Bengal.
However, there are some puja associations that still feel that the festival is all about inclusiveness and physical entry of the visitors is necessary. They have given the assurance to follow all the essential guidelines regarding the safety of crowds.
At least two big-ticket pujas in the city -- Santosh Mitra Square and Debdaru Fatak -- have announced that outsiders won't be allowed this time, but insisted that people log on to their YouTube channels to catch a glimpse of the Durga idol, and the rituals, reported PTI.
"Lakhs of people walk through narrow lanes to reach the puja pandal every year. This time, that cannot be allowed," said Sajal Ghosh, the secretary of Santosh Mitra Square.
"People in our area will also be exposed to serious threats of COVID infection. That is why we have decided to put a blanket ban on the entry of visitors to our pandal," he added.
"Maa Durga's idol will be installed in a banquet hall that belongs to the puja committee. All events will be streamed live on giant screens across a stretch of one kilometre from the venue," Sumantra Roy, an officer-bearer of the association, said.
Walking on another path, some puja organisers have opened their doors to welcome the devotees, after putting in place strict safety measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
Somnath Das, the secretary of Santoshpur Lake Pally, said, "We will not prohibit entry of visitors. Also, the pandal has been set up in a certain way so that people get to catch a glimpse of the idols from the adjacent road."
"The whole purpose of community puja would get defeated if we stop the entry of visitors. That said, we will live stream all rituals on social media," Partha Ghosh, an office-bearer of Shivmandir Puja committee, said.
Night-long pandal-hopping is set to begin in Kolkata and elsewhere in the state from Monday, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently announcing that people can start visiting marquees three days before the puja rituals begin.