All-faith prayer to precede Durga Puja

Festivities on a larger scale to return after two years of COVID restrictions

SHILLONG, Sep 22: After two years of COVID-induced restrictions, the Central Puja Committee (CPC) is gearing up to celebrate Durga Puja with pomp and gaiety in the state this year.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, CPC general secretary JL Das said like every year, the puja celebration will begin with a get-together for harmony and an all-faith prayer for peace and harmony at the Kench’s Trace Puja mandap on September 28.
Religious leaders from different faiths will attend the get-together in the presence of Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma and leaders of various political parties and organisations.
The Durga Puja celebrations will be held from October 2 to 5.
Das said there are a total of 257 community Durga Puja pandals in Meghalaya – 126 in East Khasi Hills, 120 in the Garo Hills districts and 11 in Jaintia Hills.
CPC president Naba Bhattacharjee urged the devotees to avoid using their cars for pandal-hopping in view of the traffic congestion in the city.
“Let not us create more inconvenience to the general public since there is a problem of parking,” he said.
The CPC president said they have requested for SPTS buses through the deputy commissioner of EKH district to help the devotees visit the various puja pandals up to 11 pm from October 2 to 4 on some selected routes of Greater Shillong.
He also requested the secretary of MUDA to keep open all its parking lots, particularly in Khyndai Lad, Polo and Luckier Road till midnight to facilitate the puja visitors.
Das said the CPC will undertake a special cleaning drive at the Immersion Ghat at Polo on September 24 and also the day after the immersion of the Durga idols on October 5.
He further said the CPC deploy more than 100 volunteers at the Immersion Ghat on the day of immersion and along the procession routes of Greater Shillong to assist the district administration for peaceful and incident-free immersion.
Das also said it was decided in a recent meeting with the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police not to allow any senior citizens and children below 12 years to enter Immersion Ghat.
The CPC general secretary said they are planning to construct a multi-storied building at the Immersion Ghat as an initiative of the Immersion Ghat Infrastructure Development Committee with donations from affiliated DPCs/KPCs, CPC members and well-wishers.
He said the cost of the project has been estimated at Rs 1.35 crore. “The designated committee has decided to start the construction work immediately after Chhath Puja and the proposed building will be completed in a phased manner,” he added.
Das said the popular drum-beat competitions will be organised by the Rilbong Durga Puja Committee at 10 am on October 3. The competitions will be held in group and individual categories and the winners will be awarded cash prizes along with medals.
Two running trophies will be awarded to the winning (group) and runner-up Durga Puja pandal. The Late Shiv Kumar Memorial Running Trophy will be awarded to the winning Durga Puja committee (group) donated by Ajay Agarwal and his family and the late Dr Subrata Das Memorial Running Trophy will be awarded to the winning (individual) Durga Puja committee and the trophy will be donated by the members of his family.
Das said the district police shall deploy round-the-clock security at all Durga Puja pandals of Greater Shillong in particular and in the other districts and sub-divisions of Meghalaya in general during the days of the festival.
“The security personnel will also be deployed at all vulnerable points of Greater Shillong. The police city patrol vans will patrol the city frequently,” Das said.

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