CUTTACK: The five-day long Durga Puja began in Cuttack on Monday with Sasthi Puja sans devotees and the usual fervour.
With the fear of a third Covid-19 wave looming large, the Millennium City will witness a low-key Dussehra this year too.
Sasthi puja was performed with conduct of ‘Bela Barani’ rituals in the evening at the pandals which will remain out of bounds for devotees during the festival.
Owing to the restrictions in place due to the pandemic, only seven persons including the priest and ‘karta’ are allowed in a pandal.
While Choudhury bazaar, Kazi bazaar and Bidanasi Kumbhar Sahi puja committees have decorated the 4-feet high idols of Goddess Durga with silver backdrops and gold ornaments, the Firingi Bazar puja committee has decorated its idol with a silver crown and ornaments.
The pandemic and increasing price of gold, notwithstanding, the Choudhury bazaar puja committee has added two more gold ‘kalikas’ to its silver tableau this year. Each ‘kalika’ weighs 1 kg.
Out of the 32 ‘kalikas’, the committee so far replaced nine silver ones with gold. The Choudhury bazaar puja committee, where puja is organised in the traditional Bengali style, had started the trend of adding gold to the silver tableau.
President of the puja committee Debasish Ray said the gold for decorating the idol and the pandal were donated by devotees in four ‘hundis’ (donation boxes).
“Here the puja is performed as per ‘Bangiya puja paddhati’ and devotees believe that donating gold for the deity will lead to fulfilment of their desires. These four hundis were opened after two years and over two kg of gold ornaments were found in them,” he said.
At the Haripur puja committee, the idol of Goddess Durga stands against a clay backdrop while at Shiekh bazaar puja committee, a thermocol backdrop has been used.
The Chauliaganj, Nuabazaar, Rousapatana, Chhatra Bazaar, Malgodown, Station bazaar and Dargha bazaar Puja committees have decorated the deities with ‘Jari’ backdrop and ornaments.
Going by the government’s festival protocols, no lights, music or public address systems have been used by any puja committee this year.
Elaborate arrangements have been made near the pandals to prevent crowding. Of the 171 pandals set up in the city, while Goddess Durga is being worshipped in 85, the clay idols of other deities including Lord Hara-Parvati, Kaliya Dalan and others have been consecrated in the rest.
Like last year, live streaming of rituals is being done at most of the big the pandals and organisers have decided to home deliver ‘prasad’.