Puja festivities begin amid tight security

An illuminated pandal of Jail Road Durga Puja Committee, which is celebrating its centenary this year, on Tuesday. (ST)

SHILLONG: Durga Puja, one of important festivals of Hindus, began on Tuesday amidst rituals of ‘Mahashasti’ in which the Goddess is welcomed to her earthly abode.

Neighbourhoods woke up to the roll of ‘dhak’ (drums) under a cloudy sky as priests invoked Goddess Durga and her celestial family to abide on earth and help good triumph over evil.

The celebrations formally started with ‘Devi Bodhon’, a ritual to propitiate and welcome goddess Durga.

According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children – Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati – descends on earth every year to visit her parents to fight evil.

The festivities and prayers begin with the symbolic arrival of the goddess on earth on the sixth day of the first quarter of the moon and ends on Dashami or the tenth day.

The puja, besides being a religious festival, provides a common platform for people cutting across religious lines to immerse themselves in cultural activities. However, the puja rituals begin from Mahasaptami, which falls on Wednesday.

Traditionally, every pandal has an idol of Goddess Durga depicting her as slaying the demon Mahishashur. She is shown astride a lion and wields an array of weapons in her ten arms.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made to ensure that the four-day festivities pass off peacefully.

Police are in no mood to leave anything to chance despite the HNLC’s decision to exempt the puja celebrations from the purview of the bandh.

East Khasi Hills police chief M Kharkrang said that sufficient security arrangements have been made to thwart any untoward incident.

The HNLC-called 24- hour bandh, meanwhile, has so far failed to dampen the festive spirit. But the impact, if any, of the shutdown would only be felt by Thursday.

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference here Acting Deputy Commissioner, CVD Diengdoh appealed to people to come out in large numbers and enjoy the festivities.

While terming the HNLC bandh ill-timed, Diengdoh said that Magistrates would be deployed sector wise to check crime in the city.

He also informed that the District Administration would hold consultations with local taxi drivers and shopkeepers to continue with their duties normally without any fear on October 2.

Meanwhile, along with several others, the Rilbong Durga Puja Committee kicked off the celebrations on Tuesday with a programme attended by people from different communities.

Speaking on the occasion, Additional Chief Secretary KS Kropha said that Rilbong area is an example of communal harmony where people from different communities coexist peacefully.

On the occasion, the Additional Chief Secretary said that the festival of Durga puja binds people together even as he stressed on the need of peace and communal harmony.

There will be 170 Puja pandals in the State with 101 in Khasi Hills region including Ri Bhoi, 16 in Jaintia Hills and 53 in Garo Hills.

In the greater Shillong area, 68 Community Durga Pujas and seven private pujas are being organized. CCTV cameras have been installed in all most all the Durga Puja pandals.