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Tanuja, Kajol, Tanishaa Mukerji, Mouni Roy, Ashutosh Gowariker, Ayan Mukerji, Debu Mukerji, Bappa .B. Lahiri, Taneesha Lahiri, Krishh Lahiri, Jaan Kumar Sanu, Sharbani Mukherji, Samrat, Jyoti Mukerji , Rego Lahiri, Rituparna Sengupta visit North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti 2021, one of the oldest and the biggest Durga Puja in Mumbai goes virtual consecutively for the second year amid the COVID pandemic, adheres to strict norms, only double vaccination people allowed – Jyothi Venkatesh

As the festival of Maa Durga is approaching, the members of North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti are all set to go the virtual way amid the Covid-19 pandemic for the second year .

The members have decided to take their puja to the people through live streaming and social media through cell phones and laptops.

They are concerned that with crowded pandals many may get infected by the deadly virus so the decision to carry forward the same like last year arrangements .

In Fact this year they have scaled down the idol to 4ft and 6ft with mukut. Elder members are requested to stay home.

Infact members are allowed to visit the pandal in small batches adhering to social distancing norms.

Unfortunately outsiders, bhog, prasad and flowers are strictly prohibited to avoid physical contact.

There will be two hours of morning anjali without flowers and two hours of sandhya aarti.

Debu Mukerji says “This is the second year we are doing virtual Durga Puja. We have to maintain social distance and wear masks.

Because of that we are not letting a lot of people come in. It is only members. Keeping everyone’s safety in mind we thought that’s the best decision to make.

Even the members are allotted a specific time when they can visit the pandal. We seek maa’s blessings and pray for everyone’s safety”

Kajol says “Because unprecedented times require unprecedented action, unfortunately this year too Durga Puja will not be celebrated with pomp and show as it was in 2019.

The festival has a lot of fond memories, it brings the family together, the preparation from outfits to bhog, everything about Durga Puja is special.

However, keeping the safety as the paramount importance, I trust NBSDP will do what is the best for the members and devotees”

Ayan Mukerji says “It’s the second year that we are going virtual, however safety of our members and devotees is our paramount concern, we will do everything to make sure everyone is safe. We seek Maa Durga’s blessings to help us pass through this time”

Sharbani Mukherji says “”Wishing Durga Puja to everybody. Being in the COVID situation we are facing today we have to be very careful because there are children, senior citizens at home and loved ones so I think this is necessary that we have to follow the protocols.

Definitely the Puja is not the way it was on a grand scale but what is more important that the rituals are done and puja is done, all the vidhis we are following.

We are missing the devotees who have been coming for so many years from all over the world and India.

Hopefully by next year we will come back with a bang. It is going to be our 75th year so we are planning a bigger celebration to bring in that and with Maa’s blessing, hopefully we will come out of this pandemic situation”

Durga Puja is celebrated from Shasti to Bijoya Dashami

MAHA SHASHTI: On this day, Maa is welcomed with much fanfare. In the evening ,the Kulo is decorated with Paan, Sindur, Alta, Sheela (stone) , Dhaan etc..and amidst the beats of Dhaak and sound of Shaankh, Maa is welcomed… This is called Amontron and Adhivas -Maa’s Bodhon…Maa is being welcomed.

MAHASAPTAMI: On this day the Kalash (Earthen Pot) is placed with a green Coconut and Mango Leaves .

This is surrounded on all sides by a red thread and tied. This is called KALASH STHAPAN.

The Kalash is an earthen Pot because Maa’s Murti is made of Ganga clay and Maa’s PRAAN (or life) is concentrated in the Pot.

So the Pot is the symbol of Maa. The Puja starts with praying to Ganapati , followed by prayers to Maa.

Another name of Maa Durga is NABA PATRIKA, which means nine trees i.e.Banana tree, Kochu tree, Haldi tree, Jayanti tree, Branch of Bel tree, Dalim tree ( pomegranate) are tied together.

The double Bel fruit is tied to the Banana tree. This is then taken to a river bank or sea and given a bath.

When it is brought back it is draped in a white and red saree with sindur and it now looks like a married lady with her head covered.

This is called KOLA BAHU. Many have a misconception that KOLA BAHU is the wife of Ganapati but actually she is MaaDurga or Naba Patrika.. Ganapati’s mother

MAHA SNAN: On this day Maa Durga is given a bath. First a vessel is placed in front of the Murti; a mirror is kept in the vessel, so that the reflection of Maa is seen in the mirror.

The Priest applies Haldi and Mustard oil on the mirror, as though they are applying it on Maa before the bath.

In earlier times when there was no soap, haldi and mustard oil were used for bathing.

The Pujari puts different kinds of water, i.e. Coconut water, Chandan, Ganga jal, Sugar cane juice, water from seven holy seas to give her bath.

During this time, mud from every region, as well as mud from Prostitute’s door is very essential.

After bath the Pujari puts dhaan- durba and a new sari with Maa’s name written on the mirror which is then placed on the Bedi (the place of worship).

PRAN PRATISTHA: This means bringing life into the mirror. The Pujari takes Kusha and flowers in the right hand, and touches Maa from head to foot and with Mantra Path life is brought into the Murti, Mirror and Kalash.

MAHA AGAMAN: Every year Maa comes either on a Palki or an Elephant or a Boat or a Dola (Swing) , or a Horse etc.

This Bengali year 1423, Goddess Durga’s arrival on a horse signifies, indicates the “bad horse”- The most destructive mood, hence all her path is trampled.

The Goddess arrives & leaves the earth on the same vehicle, indicating natural calamities, social unrest and political upheavals. Maa Durga’s agaman- is on the horse & gaman – on a horse.

Welcome :

The puja to welcome Maa is done with 16 items- Ashan Swagatam [ Welcome ], Paddyo [ Water To Wash The Feet ], Argho, Achmoniyom, Madhu Parkam , Purnar Achmaniyam, Abharan [ Shringar], Sindoor, Gandha [ Scent ], Pushpa[ Flower], Pushpa Mallya [ Garland] , Billo Patra [Bel Leaf] , Billopatra Mala[ Garland Of Bel Leaf], Dhoop,Deep, Kajal, Naibiddo, Bhog And Mishti [Sweet], Paan, Supari.

PUSHPANJALI [PRAYER OFFERING]: Puspanjali means offering prayers at Maa’s feet to give everyone long life, fame, good luck, health, wealth, happiness.

The devotees request Maa to protect them from all evil, sadness, greed & temptations.

MAHA ASHTAMI PUJA: Maa is now Maha Gauri- The Puja starts with Mahasnan & Maha gauri puja.

The Puja is done to give Maa the strength of the 64 Yoginis. This is a Puja of 9 pots.Then the weapons of Maa are worshiped.

SHANDHI PUJA : This is the puja when Ashtami Puja ends and Navami Puja begins,hence the name Shandhi puja.

This is considered to be the most vital time, the meeting (shandhi)of Ashtami and Navami puja. The duration of this Puja is 45 minutes. At this moment Maa is CHAMUNDA.

Pushpanjali: Prayer offering. Bhog, which consists of fruits and sweets are offered to Maa, followed by “NEET BHOG” , consisting of Rice, Ghee, Dal, Fried Vegetables, Chutney and Payesh. This prasad is later distributed amongst the devotees which is called KANGALI BHOJAN.

At this time 108 diyas are lit and 108 lotus are offered to Maa. There is a famous story that Lord Ram prayed to Maa Durga offering 108 lotus at her feet in order to defeat Ravan.

But to his surprise he found one lotus missing , to replace it ,he wanted to sacrifice his eye and pray to that moment Maa appeared in front of him and stopped him..returning the missing lotus to him. She then blessed him for his ” VICTORY”.

MAHA NAVAMI PUJA : On this day, Maa is SIDDHI DHATRI. This Puja starts with Ganapati Puja and then puja of all the other DEV and DEVIS are performed..followed by Maha Snan of Maa.

BIJOYA DASHAMI: On this day Maa had defeated and killed Mahishashur.

DEVI PUJA: Bhog with curd, honey and milk is offered to Maa.. this is called CHARANAMRIT.

The pujari sitting on the Asan takes a flower near the sacred pot and keeps it in the Northern direction because Maa is from KAILASH.

Then the pujari takes the sacred mirror which was on the vessel and performs the ritual of Visharjan.

This is the same mirror which was used to welcome Maa because her reflection is on the mirror .

SINDUR UTSAV: The married ladies apply sindoor on Maa’s forehead and offer sweets after which all the other ladies apply sindoor on each other’s forehead.

This is followed by KANAK ANJALI when Maa is departing back to her husband’s abode.

VISHARJAN: During the Visharjan of the Murti, all the devotees either go to a river bank or sea and immerse the Murti in the water.

SHANTI JAL: The sacred pot is brought back from the river/sea filled with the water where the Murti is immersed.

Then the pujari chants the Mantra and sprinkles water with the help of mango leaves on the head of all the devotees for peace and happiness.

DUSSEHRA: This is the day of rejoicement, where youngsters touch the feet of their elders seeking their blessings and sweets are distributed.

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