Darshan on the wheels: Amid COVID-19, Kolkata offers drive-in Durga Puja – travel

This year marks Satyajit Ray’s birth centenary and with Durga Puja coming up in October, three committees have joined hands to not only choose Apu Trilogy as the theme for the three marquees but also found an alternative to COVID-19 social distancing. Badamtala Ashar Sangha, 66 Palli and Kalighat Nepal Bhattacharjee Street Club are offering a drive-in darshan for Durga Puja this year in Kolkata for the event titled ‘Bhooter Raja Dilo Bor’.

It comes from a song featured in Satyajit Ray’s Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne and translates to ‘The King of Ghosts has Given Boons’. Texas resident Mridul Pathak, a patron of Badamtala Ashar Sangha, came up with the idea of a drive-in darshan amid COVID-19.

Pathak’s non-profit organisation International Foundation for Sustainable Development (IFSD) is in charge of the event. The three Durga puja committees are located within a 1 km stretch in south Kolkata and will follow the concept of drive-in darshan to avoid mass crowding near the pandals.

So what if the pandal hopping, cultural events and feasting have been swept under the dark shadow of COVID-19? The three Durga puja committees in south Kolkata have found the perfect alternative ahead of the festival by offering the drive-in darshan.

Devotees will be required to slow down their car when they enter the pandal, first of which will be Badamtala with scenes from Pather Panchali. Without stepping out, people can view the idols facing the lane and drive on to the next pandal which will be by 66 Palli with Aparajito.

The last in line will be the pandal by Nepal Bhattacharjee which will depict scenes of Apur Sansar. Since the drive-in route has been mapped in a certain way, all cars will be sanitised via a pipe shower before entering each puja pandal.

With thermal checking and hand sanitisation to be installed in place, a separate lane will be set up for pedestrians adhering to the norms of social distancing. No visitor will be allowed to go near the deities.

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