KOLKATA: The 263-year-old Sovabazar Rajbari Durga Puja, which used to welcome thousands of revellers during the five-day carnival, witnessed a low visitor turnout this year in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Only 25 people are being allowed to enter the premises at a time in view of the pandemic situation, a member of the family said.
Started by Raja Nabakrishna Deb in 1757, the year of the Battle of Plassey, the household puja has taken a slew of health safety measures to contain the spread of the disease.
"We have installed a sanitiser tunnel before the entrance of the courtyard where only 25 people are being allowed at a time. We have also arranged for thermal checking and made wearing of masks mandatory," said Soumit Narayan Deb, a descendant of Gopi Mohan who was adopted son of Nabakrishna.
The puja is known as the Sovabazar Rajbari "Boro Taraf".
"While thousands of people used to visit our premises during the puja days in the past years, the situation is different this time. The turnout is much less. But we have not barred visitors as we believe in the inclusiveness of the Durga Puja festival," he said.
At the opposite to the Sovabazar Rajbari is the 'Choto Rajbari', also built by Nabakrishna later when his son Rajkrishna was born. There too his descendants have been organising Durga Puja for 231 years.
The Sovabazar Rajbari "chhoto taraf" puja, however, banned the entry of visitors due to the pandemic situation, and are allowing close family members, Alok Krishna Deb, in- charge of this puja, said.
Among other prominent "bonedi barir" (household) pujas in the city, the more than 200-year-old Durga Puja at the Janbazar residence of Rani Rashmoni is also not allowing visitors to enter its premises.
"Apart from visitors, we could not let distant relatives and family friends in the courtyard where the goddess has been put on pedestal. Only close relatives are bein allowed," family member Prasun Hazra said.
The selected people, allowed inside in strict adherence to all health safety protocols, could go up to a point near the idols.
Only the priest and his assistant could go to the idols, he said.
The Daw household puja in Jorasanko area of the city is alow allowing close relatives only inside the courtyard.
"Due to the COVID-19 situation, we can't take the risk. Only close relatives after all mandatory checking have been allowed inside," a family member said.
No guided tour of these household pujas was organised this year due to the pandemic.