Bhubaneswar: Durga Puja is not just a festival; it is a sense of joy or happiness in itself. Durga Puja marks the arrival of the festive season which means a lot of decorations and shopping in homes and pandals. In most parts of the country, there is an emotion attached to this festival spanning ten days. Out of these days, the festivities are at peak on Sasthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami.
This period is an opportunity for idol-makers and artisans when they make most of the business. However, this year is far from normal. The never-seen-before crisis COVID-19 pandemic has hit the idol-makers and artisans of Odisha hard. The period which they look forward to for earning handsomely is shadowed by the coronavirus crisis and the regulations associated with it.
However, these skilled workers are committed to deliver (to their customers), which is the principal worship of the Goddess for them. “Our regular customers have told us they cannot organise big pujas this year and have ordered smaller idols according to their budgets, which means our earnings have halved. But we have fulfilled all our commitments on time,” they said.
The clay artisans have been severely hit by COVID-19 and many of them were passing days in anxiety till their art and crafts were handed over to the puja committees in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. “Hardships are a part of life. But we should not allow those to conquer our spirits. We have earned a lot during all the Pujas in our lifetime. This is a testing phase and will pass soon,” said a group of artisans here.
While the Capital City’s pandals are usually crowded from Ganesh Puja onwards, with artisans and idol-makers working in the vicinity, the premises look deserted this year. There are very few workers from across Odisha and neighbouring States who are engaged in the process.
“Six-feet distance between each devotee, not touching idols and not making any offerings, the Puja is not like the festival we have seen since our childhood. Apart from the income that Maa Durga’s festival generates for us, we are sentimentally attached to the service during Durga Puja. It holds a lot of significance to us,” a group of artisans here said.
Natural calamities are not uncommon for Odisha. In 2019 it was Fani, and in 2020 cyclone Amphan hit parts of the State. These disasters are a major jolt in themselves for the lowly paid artisans and idol-makers. But these workers somehow manage their expenses and gear-up to give the best during festivals.
“COVID scourge is beyond our worst imaginations. Our financial losses run into several lakh rupees. But we are very hopeful that Maa Durga will demolish the devil and give a new lease of life to mankind,” the artisans and idol-makers echoed in unison.