Navratra, Durga Puja rituals peak at Navami

MUMBAI: As the festival of Navratra draws to a close at Dussehra Friday, a cluster of important rituals like Navratra Havan and Kumari Puja will unfold at Devi mandals and Durga Puja pandals on Thursday. The buoyant ritual of Sindoor Khela and Ravan Dahan will cap the final flourish at Vijayadashami.
The Bengali community arrived for Sandhi Puja in full finery at 11.30pm on Wednesday, albeit in smaller numbers than previous years. This vital ceremony marks the cusp of Ashtami and Navami.
The ritual came to life in Kandivli where the Krishti Durga Pujo is housed in a village set-up. “Our mandap has been built like a hut around the banyan tree giving a hut like look. Accordingly the idol bears a village look. The pandal is located at Shogun Hall because organising the event at our regular open air venue would make it difficult to maintain Covid protocol,” said spokesman Arindam Dasgupta. Krishti will not host celebrity performers but instead organise in-house programmes to champion young talent.
The HRCWA (Hillside Residents Cultural & Welfare Association) Puja at Thakur Village in Kandivli (East) has shifted to a smaller clubhouse. The organisers thoughtfully announced the bhog menu a day before, and members arrive to pick up parcels the following day. Joint secretary Sumantra Mitra said, “We cannot invite people for bhog indoors, but we make sure they do not miss the delectable fish fry, khichdi, fried rice, chicken pakoda and egg roll.”
HRCWA has deepened its focus on corporate-driven social initiatives. Mitra said, “We have devised a vocational training programme named ‘Hridan‘ (heart of gold) for underprivileged youth, especially girls. Our programme ‘Own Your Garden’ involves creating green spaces with potted plants along the footpath with neighbouring societies. We also gathered 100-down rundown bicycles, repaired them and donated them to villagers in Malshej Ghat in two jeeps provided by Mahindra.”
In the same spirit of social responsibility, HRCWA has called off Sindoor Khela owing to Covid.
In Navi Mumbai, the 25-year-old Durga Puja of the Koparkhairane Bengali Association (KKBA) at Shetkari Samaj Mandir permits only those visitors who have taken both doses of the Covid vaccine. “We have created a special waiting area with fans for elderly devotees who are vaccinated so they are comfortable,” said secretary Piu Mitra.
The Durga Puja of the Amra Prabasi Trust of Nerul is also allowing only double vaccinated people to visit. Ashtami and Navami ‘anjali’ was scheduled in batches in the aim of social distancing.
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