With less than a week left to go for Durga Puja, idol artisans are putting the finishing touches to their figures of Goddess Durga and her sons and daughters -- Kartik, Ganesh, Sharashwati and Laxmi.
Everything else is a little different this year though. As devotees in Chattogram get ready to celebrate the biggest religious festival of Bengali Hindus, they must keep in mind the health guidelines required for Covid-19 pandemic.
Puja udjapan (celebration) committee leaders of the port city said devotees must follow health guidelines before entering every mandap (puja venue). The five-day festival will start on October 22.
This year, Durga Puja will be celebrated in 2,167 mandaps across port city and 15 upazilas of the district, said Shyamal Kumar Palit, president of Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad, Chattogram district unit.
"We have strictly instructed all mandap committees to ensure health guidelines during the festival," he told The Daily Star, adding, "No devotee will be allowed to enter the mandaps without a facemask."
"Besides, volunteers will be there spray disinfectants at the entrance, while hand sanitiser and soap will be available for the devotees as well."
Contacted, Advocate Chandan Talukder, president of the Puja Udjapan Parishad's city unit, said "We are emphasising on health safety at every mandap. No more than 20 devotees will be allowed inside a mandap at a time and they will have to maintain at least three-feet distance from each other."
Some mandaps, includung Ramkrishna Mission, have instructed devotees to perform some rituals of the puja virtually rather than crowding the mandaps, said Shyamal. "The Chattol Mahashakti Sarbojanin Durga Puja Udjapon Committee in Dewanjee Pukur Par will telecast the festival live from the venue for four days through cable TV," he added.
Meanwhile, some puja udjapan committee leaders were not happy over a decision to not deploy police and ansar members permanently at the mandaps.
"A total of five police personnel and five ansar members used to be continuously deployed at each mandap in the past, but this year the administration have decided otherwise," said Chandan.
"In our meeting with the commissioner of Chattogram Metropalitan Police, I have expressed my concern over the security issue."
Contacted, CMP Commissioner Saleh Mohammad Tanvir said they took the decision due to the pandemic. However, CMP will deploy a sufficient number of mobile teams to thwart any untoward situation, he said.
But Chandan said this might not turn out to be that helpful, as it is difficult for patrol teams to rush to remote areas after gleaning information of untoward incidents.
"There are many remote areas in the district where it takes hours for the law enforcers to reach. This is why we are asking for permanent deployment," he said.
Apart from the security concerns though, Shyamal said he is satisfied with the overall preparations taken by the administration surrounding the festival.
"A total of 500kg of rice has been given to each mandap from the government," he said.