In its nearly 125-year-old Durga Puja celebration history, the state capital added a golden chapter this year by not immersing even a single idol in the Gomti. This happened with the cooperation of the Durga Puja committees, all of whom agreed to the district administration’s proposal to immerse the statues of the Goddess in the pits / artificial ponds created by the administration.
The move was widely hailed by the environmentalists but several puja samitis also accused the authorities — Lucknow Municipal Corporation, traffic department, Lucknow Electricity Supply Administration and the district administration — of poor management.
Some of their office-bearers said that there should have been better collaboration between the administration and the puja samitis to ensure that the ‘visarjan’ (immersion) in artificial ponds happened with greater care and without hurting religious sentiments.
A number of puja committees staged sit-ins after their idols got damaged while being lowered into pits with the help of cranes. When contacted, additional district magistrate, trans-Gomti, Visha Bhushan Mishra, said, “Barring protests by one or two puja samitis, the immersions took place peacefully.”
Amid growing concern for the environment, as many as 97 puja committees of the state capital agreed to undertake ‘visarjan’ in the seven pits prepared by the administration — four at Jhule Lal Park, two near Laxman Mela Ground and one near Panchmukhi Hanuman temple. Last year, 110 Durga idols were immersed in the Gomti.
President of Ramakrishna Math, Swami Muktinathananda, set the tone when he appealed to everyone to look for “amicable and acceptable solutions” for eco-friendly immersion of Durga idols.
Leading by example, the Ramakrishna Math immersed its idol in a pond located 25 kilometres from the temple premises. Other puja samitis followed suit. However, on Tuesday — the immersion day — the picture at the ground zero was far from perfect.
Anand Lal Banerjee, former director general of police and honorary president, Gomti Nagar Sarvajanin Durga Puja Samiti, criticised the local administration in strong words. “The immersion was disastrous and hurt our sentiments and faith. It was clear that the administration was unwilling to do what it had promised. The preparation of water bodies was inadequate with improper arrangements of lifting the idols,” he said.
“The authorities need to remember that the process of immersion is not limited to Durga Puja. It also takes place during Lakshmi Puja, Saraswati Puja, Ram Navmi, Kali Puja and Ganesh Puja,” said Banerjee.
President of the Bengali Club Arun Kumar Banerjee and Sudip Sanyal, office bearer of the La-Touche Road Puja Sangsad, also said they were “shocked at the way the local administration carried out idol immersion”.
Vivek Ganguly, who was present at one of the pits as a spectator, said, “What happened — the damage suffered by some idols — shows a complete failure on our part — that we were unable to convince the administration about how to conduct the event as per our rituals.”
Sushanto Ghosh, vice-president of the Bondhu Mahal Durga Puja committee, said, “The sight of cranes lifting and lowering ‘Maa Durga’ idols was disturbing for me and other members of Bondhu Mahal.”
“The head of Mahishasur (a buffalo demon killed by Goddess Durga) fell off. This is against our faith. In a way, the idol we immersed was ‘khandit’ (damaged). We shouted at the crane operator that he had damaged the idol but he turned a deaf ear to us,” said Ghosh.
He said that none of the samiti members were against idol immersions in ponds but the administration needed to understand people’s sentiments towards ‘Maa Durga’. “We worship her religiously for days and then when we see such callous treatment from the administration it hurts us,” Ghosh said.
Trisha Sinha, another spectator, said there were problems from the onset. “The administration did not allow beating of ‘dhaks’ during ‘visarjan’. Can you imagine immersion without the traditional beats of ‘dhak’?” she asked.
Meanwhile, city environmentalists hailed the eco-friendly immersions. Venkatesh Dutta, associated with the ‘Gomti River Waterkeeper’ movement, said, “All puja pandals and the district administration did a great job. We have been advocating for eco-friendly immersions for years. Earlier the water flow in our rivers was enough to dilute the impact of idol immersion. Also, there weren’t so many pandals. But now, our rivers are struggling for survival due to the declining flow and the deteriorating water quality.”
He expressed hope that idol immersion in artificial ponds would help improve the quality of river water. “The directives from the National Mission for Clean Ganga and the initiatives taken by the Ramakrishna Mission and the district administration are commendable. Such efforts should be widely adopted and supported by the community,” said Dutta.
SHO of Hasanganj police station, DP Kushwaha, said that initially, some people had objected to the arrangement of immersing idols only in artificial ponds. “They understood the situation after we spoke to them and agreed to cooperate with the authorities,” he said.
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