Virtual celebrations blend with traditional as Dubai Bengalis mark Durga Puja

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Dubai - Safe and compliant celebrations are being held for people who choose to gather at designated hotel venues to meet and greet others during the festive occasion.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Sat 24 Oct 2020, 7:33 PM

It’s a perfect blend of traditional and virtual celebrations this Durga Puja as many Bengali residents in Dubai have reinvented the festivities amid the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

Communities organising Durga Puja celebrations or the Sharad Utsav (Autumn Festival) are adhering to the social gathering norms and have made arrangements for people to celebrate the festival from the comforts of their homes.

Satyaki Sarkar, organising member of one of the Bengali committees, said: “Everyone has been enjoying the puja this year from their homes as we have been sharing the Zoom link and Facebook live sessions with our members and non-members. Several elderly people from India — like our parents and relatives — also joined us this year virtually. They offered ‘anjali’ or prayer from their homes while our regular priest carried out the ceremonies from a venue in Kolkata as we didn’t have the usual ceremonies this year on-site in Dubai. But everyone felt they were sitting right in front of the idol.”

Another organiser Madhulika Chatterjee pointed out: “Cultural functions were held online, where live and recorded programmes by children and adults were shown. Short skits, songs, drawing, quiz, alpana painting and concordance (shonkordoni) competitions were held virtually in which children and women participated with great enthusiasm.”

Safe and compliant celebrations are being held for people who choose to gather at designated hotel venues to meet and greet others during the festive occasion. Chatterjee pointed out: “All government guidelines pertaining to Covid-19 were being followed even as people come in restricted numbers to celebrate and dine together. Although we do not have the quintessential ‘bhog’ (prasad) this year and no prayer services are held at the venue as those are organised online, Bengali cuisine is on display and everything is offered on a first-come-first-serve basis. A group of local artists called Park Street Band also entertained the attendees by playing several Bengali and non-Bengali songs. That lent a nostalgic ambience to the celebrations.”

Dubai residents, who attended the festivities through the virtual platform, said that they were expecting a scaled down celebrations this year but didn’t want the spirit to be dampened.

Indian (Bengali) expat Anirban Nandi said: “The call of the conchs and the dhakis (drums) are surely being missed. But Bengalis around the world are celebrating Durga Puja like all other festivals amid the pandemic, so this year is bound to be different.”

He added: “But the upside of this has been that you need to do a simple Google search on virtual Durga Puja 2020 and Youtube is one of the main locations where a lot of such festival committees from India and around the world are providing curated live feeds of different pandals. So people viewing it have special access to the idols which are not usually allowed for visitors attending it physically. 360-degree cameras for a realistic experience are also being installed for clearer view. Technology has definitely proved to be a blessing amid the pandemic.”

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