As expected Durga Puja celebrations will be different in Hyderabad this year. Keeping in mind the physical distancing norms, festival organisers are looking at puja celebrations sans the crowds associated with puja pandals.

Most puja committees will be going live on social media platforms to stream their everyday puja sessions and plan to restrict the number of visitors to 50.

The Kalibari neighbourhood in Sanikpuri is wearing a deserted look unlike earlier festivities. With no people thronging and no buzz, the temple complex looks is anything but a Puja venue.

Member of one of Hyderabad’s oldest Bengali Associations, Bangiya Sankskriti Sangha, Atin Chowdhary says that unlike pre-pandemic years, they are unable to get the protima (idol) from Kolkata. The Puja association which will shift to a different venue this year has a small idol that will be sourced locally: “We shifted our venue to Mehboob College and are keeping the size of the idol smaller.”

Bengali women will be missing the fun and games at the pandal and the endless shopping at Puja stalls. Above all, it will be the ‘sindoor khela’ that will be missed the most.

Atin Chowdhary says, “Core committee members and priest included, we’ll be about 20 people. In such a situation controlling people will be tough. So we have decided to stream the proceedings. But, keeping in mind Bengalis’ love for music and cultural activities, we have decided to keep that online as well. Artistes will perform from their respective homes and keep the Bengali folk entertained and bring home the puja-mood.”

Attapur puja committee is, however, allowing visitors, owing to its sprawling venue but limiting the number of visitors to 50 with live streaming of puja proceedings including the sandhi puja, informs Soumitra Pahari, member of Attapur Bengali Association.

While aarti is virtual, food is for real: Durga Puja

Hoteliers have joined the celebrations by offering the much-loved pujor-bhog. Marigold hotel has a bhog-package of khichdi, dalna, begun bhaja, a selection of tok (the Bengali sweet dips). This apart, there is the much-loved ilish selection as well. Chef Partha is going all out with his team to make the bhog package a meal to remember in puja celebration – 2020. His ilish paturi is a win-win with a personal touch by the chef to the recipe. He says he’s also making sure to make the begun bhaja remind Bengalis of their grand meals by their didas (grandmother) and moms. The khichdi comes with a lovely smokey flavour to give the feel of it being cooked at a puja pandal’s firewood kitchen. Chef Partha says, “I am also not forgetting the sweet deal. We have five-six Bengali sweets, all made in-house. This includes nolen gurer payesh and rosogolla.” The alu-dom and korai sutir kachori are likely to win hands down if fish and meat are part of your daily menu. The package is priced at ₹3,500.

Sarita Sarkar’s ‘Sarkar Kitchen’ is shifting to Club Botanica at Gachibowli to host a Bengali food fest. Sarita, the proud restaurateur says, “We will be serving 16 dishes on a pre-plated thali every day that includes the Bengali snacks, fish curry, khichdi and mishti. We have a takeaway option as well. We priced the pre plated meal at ₹1200.”

Mercure hotel has a compact menu, with the highlight of radha bollovi, and handpicked favourite snacks like chops and devil’s egg. In the main course the Chicken dak bungalow is a winner and other favourites include basundi pulao. For desserts, there is Bengali sandesh and Pantua. Mercure has priced their menu at ₹399.

To recreate the Durga Puja ambienceThe Park will host Durga Puja food stalls in their hotel. The recreation of the food stalls allow Puja food revelry. Chef Thimma Reddy says, “Many people in the city look forward to Durga Puja for the annual break and to eat to their heart’s content. Since most of them won’t travel to their respective homes this year to celebrate with their extended families, we decided to give them the Puja feel here.”

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