At a time when the outbreak of the third wave of pandemic is still in the realm of possibility, the Odisha Government has decided to trim down the puja festivities akin to indoor-like ambience bereft of pandal hopping by devotees to contain the possible spread of Coronavirus.
Prioritizing the health safety criteria, the State government on Monday issued Puja observance Standard operating procedure (SOP) debarring the devotees from hopping the puja pandals as it had done last year to contain the pandemic spread.
“It is hereby directed that congregations for the celebration of Ganesh Puja, Durga Puja, Laxmi Puja, Kali Puja, and other similar festivals shall not be allowed in public throughout the State. However, religious rituals in churches, temples, mosques, and places of worship will continue as usual with a limited number of persons with strict adherence to Covid protocols”, the notification issued by the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) stated.
He further said that in order to conduct puja in puja pandals or mandaps, the organisers will have to apply and obtain necessary permission from the District Magistrate or any other officer authorised by him/ her.
People usually congregate and get in touch with each other to celebrate pujas during which it is not possible to adhere to Covid appropriate behaviour and such congregations have a potential to cause the spread of the virus, an official said.
Some of the guidelines are as follows:
- At any given point of time, there shall not be more than 7 persons including organisers (Kartas) and priests and support staff present at the puja pandal/ mandap.
- The persons present at puja pandal/ mandap shall follow all Covid protocols of social distancing, mask usage, personal hygiene and sanitation issued by central or state government/ local administration in letter and spirit.
- The idol size should be less than 4 feet. Puja pandals/mandaps will be covered on three sides. The 4th side will also be covered in a way not to allow any public view of the idols. There will be no darshan by public devotees.
- The organisers and other persons involved in conducting the puja shall abide by any other condition(s) as imposed by local administration/ appropriate authority.
- There shall be no immersion procession. The idols will be immersed in artificial pond(s) created by the local administration for the purpose.