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Budget slashed from 50 lakh to 10 lakh, yet Udarbond set to be the biggest extravaganza this Durga Puja

As the famous saying goes among Bengalis “Baro Mashey Tero Parbon” (Thirteen festivals in twelve months), off these, Durga Puja is the most celebrated religious festival that evolved into an egalitarian mass festival, very iconic to the Bengali Hindu community across the world. Silchar is one of the significant cultural capitals of the Bengalis outside of the East (recent Bangladesh) and West Bengal, and stands not far behind in celebrating Durga Puja in a grandiose manner. In Silchar and in the entire Barak valley, Udarbond Kali Bari Road Puja Committee is known for organizing the big-budget, extravagant Puja with huge, mind-blowing pandals every year, until 2019. Then, the COVID pandemic happened, which halted many of our periodical social, cultural, and mass activities. 

Last year, unprecedentedly, Durga Puja was a low-key event after the first wave of the COVID pandemic. This year, the country faced a more devastating second wave and still contemplating memories of the deceased and coping with stranded and almost a recession-like economic situation. But this year, the optimistic part is COVID vaccines. COVID vaccines are scientifically proven to be providing a good immunization against the deadly COVID, and an ample part of population is already inoculated with atleast single dose of COVID vaccines, so there is some ease in the SOP’s issued from the government for Durga Puja.

Barak Bulletin caught up with the former secretary of Udarbond Kali Bari Road Puja committee, Shankar Roy, to discuss this year’s preparation for Durga Puja, as less than a week is left for the most famous festival of this valley. Two consecutive waves of pandemic seem to be affecting Puja this year as well, as the budget remains below 10 lakh, and only a few workers are setting up the pandal this year. “Earlier our budget used to be about 50 lakh and this year our budget is hardly 7 to 8 lakhs, almost 50 laborers (from West Bengal) used to work in our pandal daily, this year only six people are working,” says Shankar Roy to sum up the effect of pandemic in their Puja.

Roy informed that this year’s attraction would be the idol of Devi Durga, which will be made by grains of masoor and moong pulse.

Discussing the measures taken given the COVID SOP, Ray said, “There will be separate road, and entry point for male, female and sanitization tunnel will be installed in each line, the committee will also distribute mask to unmasked people. There will be a special road for the public servants and press persons, common devotees can access this road by donating to the clubs.”

He further added that “there will be no ticket or coupon entry to the pandal, only those who want to use the special road could access it by donating money to the committee fund”. Generally only a handful of hundred people out of thousands use the special road, but the special road will not be used for mass entry. An emergency exit road will be there too, he informed.

“Puja committee has also sought assistance from the police department to provide them uniformed home guards; puja committee will pay their wage. The club committee will also engage 40 fully vaccinated volunteers in maintaining the COVID SOPs with the police,” the former secretary shared with Barak Bulletin.

We will try our best to maintain the physical distance and hygiene; we have put up blocks to prevent a muddy situation in case of rainfall. Because of the prevailing situation, Shankar Roy says that the Puja committee has decided to distribute packaged bhog prasad — they distributed almost 5000 packets last year. This time they are looking at distributing 8000 packets.

“We are expecting a huge crowd this year, as, on the Mahalaya morning, a huge crowd appeared at our Puja premise,” Roy informed us on being asked about the crowd.

Talking about the inauguration event, Roy said, “Our puja will officially be inaugurated by the local aged peoples and senior citizens. We have no place for leaders and VIPs.” He also added, “We have also taken a few social service steps, as our committee has distributed clothes in the Cachar Cancer Hospital.”

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