<br>This year, the scene was completely different at Kumartuli located in the crumbling neighbourhood of north Kolkata. Most of the studios wore a deserted look with half-done Durga idols and many of them still remained as mere bamboo structures.
Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the vintage art district of this bustling eastern metropolis is reeling under a severe financial crunch and few orders for Durga idols from various puja committees.
“The rituals to draw the eyes of Goddess Durga couldn't be performed this year on Mahalaya as most of the idols were not ready. Many of the puja organisers have still not booked their idols and sent an advance,” said Kumartuli artisan Chaina Pal, adding that if they do not receive an advance payment and booking how would they finish the idols on time.
Pal said that unlike every year, this time the festival would be held after more than one month from the day of Mahalaya.
“That also made all the artisans and organisers go slow on the preparation,” she said.
Sources at Kumartuli said that only a few idols, those which are made of fibre or which will travel to remote corners of the country from Kumartuli, have been given the finishing touches so far. The rest are still in an unfinished state.
Since the budget for Durga Puja has been slashed by organisers from across platforms, the artisans of Kumartuli also had to make heavy compromises on the pricing, size and volume of the Goddess to make them fit into tiny budgets.
Interestingly, the traditional family pujas of Kolkata also made certain changes in their annual celebration. According to sources in Kolkata's Daw family, this year their Durga idol would be smaller in size than the previous year.
They said that even the dhakis would be brought in from their villages two weeks before the five-day festivity actually starts.
“The decision to bring the dhakis home two weeks before the festival was taken keeping in mind the Covid safety issue. They will be quarantined for two weeks,” a family member said, adding that no outsider would be allowed to participate in their family puja this year. “Only close family members, those who are directly involved in the puja, will be there this year,” she said.
Sources at Kolkata's famous Shobhabazar Raj Bari said that they would also not allow any outsider to participate in their family puja as part of Covid-19 safe measures. The family is now mulling to show their puja live virtually on the social media.