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Yamuna may be less polluted this Durga Puja

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New Delhi: If all goes well, the Yamuna river may be less polluted this Durga Puja.

Puja committees across Delhi seem to have gone all out to ensure that the idols of goddess Durga are made using eco-friendly materials. This follows a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order that prohibits immersion of the idols made using non-biodegradable materials — because they further pollute an already polluted Yamuna.

Those organising Durga Pujas here say they are aware of the NGT fiat.

“Our idols have been prepared using natural colours. We are using products which do not cause any harm to the environment,” Shekher Guha, Secretary of Delhi’s CR Park Mela Ground Durga Puja Committee in south Delhi, told IANS.

Guha’s team organises one of the biggest — and perhaps most crowded — Durga Pujas in the capital, the main reason being CR Park is dominantly populated by Bengalis.

Puja committees have restrained the idol makers from using chemicals, paints, glitters and plastics which don’t get dissolved in the water body, he said.

The NGT had in September banned immersion of idols made from non-biodegradable material like quick-setting gypsum plaster, also known as Plaster of Paris, or plastic in the Yamuna river.

“Immersion should be allowed only of (idols) made from biodegradable material and not plastic/Plaster of Paris. Only those colours should be used on the idols which are environment- friendly,” the NGT had said.

Guha said the idol markers had embraced the idea of a “pollution-free puja”.

“A few organisers have even prepared small ponds near the ‘pandal’ where they plan to immerse the smaller idols,” Guha said.

Pradip Majumder, vice president of the South Delhi Durga Puja Joint Procession Committee, explained to IANS the steps being taken to comply with the NGT order. He said cranes and other machinery would be deployed at the Kalindi Kunj Ghat along the Yamuna to scoop out the idols within minutes of their immersion.

Every year thousands of idols of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik are immersed into the Yamuna, resulting in further deterioration of its pollution levels.

Delhi, home to a huge Bengali population, organises hundreds of Durga Pujas every year. Majumder couldn’t estimate the total in Delhi but said south Delhi itself has played host to “100 Durga Pujas”.

A senior Delhi government official told IANS that the administration was going all out to ensure the NGT order.

“We are taking adequate measures to see that the pollution level in the Yamuna doesn’t go up because of Durga Puja,” he said.

Yamuna, which Hindus consider a holy river, originates at Yamunotri, in the Himalayan range. Its water quality is generally considered “okay” till it flows through Haryana and reaches Delhi where it flows in the capital’s eastern fringe. This is where all the immersions take place.

When the Yamuna enters Uttar Pradesh, pollution intensifies — making the once lively river, which merges with the Ganges in Allahabad, dirty as well as stinking in most places.

(by Priya Yadav, IANS)

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Was the Ban on Sale of Firecrackers in Delhi Successful? Data on Pollution Levels in Delhi Say Otherwise

Despite the much talked about cracker-ban, pollution monitoring stations placed the capital in the ‘red zone’, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality.

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While the ban on crackers imposed by the Supreme Court aimed to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, figures from pollution monitoring system paint an unhealthy picture with amplified levels of air pollution. (Representative image) Pixabay

New Delhi, October 20, 2017: The Supreme Court had on October 9 banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi during Diwali in order to counter the pollution, deteriorating air quality and smog-like conditions that have come to be associated with the festival in recent times.

While a radical change was not expected following the ban on firecrackers, a humble and promising beginning could be witnessed on Diwali with majority areas in Delhi reporting much lesser noise and smoke till 6 PM, compared to previous years.

However, as the festive spirit picked up from 7 PM onwards, the hopes for a pollution-free Diwali got lost behind the growing echo of the crackers.

Pollution Levels on Diwali

Despite the much talked about the ban on firecrackers, pollution monitoring stations placed the capital in the ‘red zone’, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality. According to the stats available, on Diwali day around 7 pm, online indicators showed a rising trend in the volume of cancer-causing ultra-fine particulates PM2.5 and PM10 that are capable of entering the respiratory system and reach the bloodstream.

PM2.5 and PM10 are the extremely fine particulate matter with the digits representing their diameter in micrometers. They are a major component of air pollutants that threaten both, our health and the environment at large.

ALSO READ 10 Quick Facts About Delhi Pollution Problem

However, data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) suggested that the air quality in Delhi on Diwali was better than last year.

On Thursday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) value was 319 which placed the city in the ‘very poor’ category. However, the AQI value on Diwali last year was 431 and the city was placed in the ‘severe’ category.

According to data from SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research), the 24-hour rolling average at around 11 PM was revealed as 154 and 256 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5 and PM10 respectively.

According to SAFAR data, pollution levels were expected to soar between 11 PM and 3 AM.

Pollution Levels in the Morning after Diwali

As the night progressed, PM2.5 levels recorded a sharp rise in multiple areas in and around Delhi, with 15 times increase in areas like India Gate

As per data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM2.5 levels at 6 AM in,

India Gate – 911 microns (Normal level – 60 microns)

RK Puram – 776 microns (13 times more than usual)

Ashoka Vihar – 820 microns (14 times more than normal)

Anand Vihar – 617 microns (10 times more than normal)

A sharp rise was observed in the PM10 levels in the early hours of the morning after Diwali which suggest hazardous pollution levels in Delhi.

As per data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM10 levels at 6 AM in,

India Gate – 985 microns

RK Puram – 1083 (11 times more than usual)

Anand Vihar – 2402 microns (24 times more than normal. Normal level is considered around 100 microns)

While the ban on firecrackers imposed by the Supreme Court aimed to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, figures from pollution monitoring system paint an unhealthy picture with amplified levels of air pollution.

Official figures from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are yet to be announced today. However, judging from the data available, it won’t be wrong to say that pollution levels in Delhi have increased post-Diwali.

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Sindoor Khela: Bengali women play with sindoor on vijayadashami

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www.durgapujaonline.com

Sindoor Khela: It is an age old ritual that on the last day of Durga puja “Vijayadashami”, women apply sindoor/sindur on the goddess’s feet or forehead and then start smearing it to all the married women around. However, unmarried women or widows are not allowed to celebrate Sindoor Khela.

Sindoor Khela celebrates the pride that Bengali wives take in having a husband and to wish a long happy life of her better half.

The customary “Sindoor Khela” marks the end of the biggest festival of the Bengalis. It is the time when all the actresses in Kolkata get together and splash each other with the vermilion.

History of Sindoor Khela:

Sindoor Khela dates back to around 400 years. It was the time when people had just started celebrating Durga Puja. According to a famous legend, every year Maa Durga during Durga Puja, comes back to her parents place (father Giriraj and mother Menoka). She also brings her daughters (Saraswati and Lakshmi), two sons (Ganesh and Kartik) and 2 companions (Bijoya and Jaya) along with her. Maa Durga stays along with her parents for only 4 days and on Vijayadashami, she has to return to Shiva (her husband) in the far Himalayas. Before bidding the final goodbye to the Goddess, women apply sindoor on Durga’s feet and forehead and then they play with vermilion or sindoor with each other. They also pray to the Goddess for their happy and long married lives.

Photos by Saptojoy Ghosh

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Mahalaya: The Bengali radio tradition

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It was four in the morning when I was woken up with a phone call today. The screen said ‘Ma’, my mother.

“Shunchish toh?” (Are you listening?)

I tuned into All India Radio channel (Akashvani), and the familiar long-drawn sound of the sacred conch shell filled the apartment.

Ya devi sarvabhuteshu, shakti rupena sansthita।
Namastashyai Namastashyai Namastashyai namo namaha।।

Most Bengalis would know these lines by heart as they constitute our earliest recollections of Durga puja.

From bleary memories, these lines surface from the time of tape recorders and radios. Early morning would see most of us awake, strains of Mahisasura Mardini floating in from nearby apartments. So successful have been our mothers and grandmothers in inculcating this timeless tradition into our very Bengali souls, that even those staying away from their Kolkata hometown resort to searching out Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s rendering of Mahisasura Mardini on the internet and listening to it as the day’s wake-up call.

Earlier, the day called for night-long feasting ending with the pre-dawn radio programme. A lot of the excitement has dwindled over the ages, but hints of nostalgia continue to grip us.

Mahalaya marks the end of the Pitri Pakhha (a 15-day tradition in which people pay their offerings and respect for their ancestors in river banks, in a ritual called ‘tarpan’) and the beginning of the first day of the fortnight long Devi Paksha.

Traditionally, artisans designing the numerous Durga idols add the final touches to the Goddess on this day– her eyes. After her ‘Chakkhudaan’ (donation of the eyes), the devi is asked to awake: “Jaago! Tumi Jaago!” as goes one of the timeless pieces in the Mahisasura Mardini programme.

Bhadra’s reverberating chants serve to remind Bengalis world wide of their roots and no matter where they are located, Mahalaya brings into fore the excitement that pulses inside every Bengali before Durga Puja.

“Ma asche” (Mother is coming), everyone whispers excitedly, and starts the countdown to the major four days of festivity even though Durga Puja itself is broadly a 10-day festival.

Mahalaya was first broadcast in 1931 over the Akashvani (AIR) radio station. The enchanting hour-and-a-half audio programme is a spirited recitation of Vedic verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ interspersed with Bengali devotional songs and classical music. The Mahisasuramardini Strota was written by Guru Adi Sankaracharya.

Organised by Premankur Aatorthi, Birendra Krishna Bhadra, Nripendra Krishna Mukhopadhya and Raichand Boral, the program, tells the story of Devi Durga’s origin and descent on the earth and her eventual vanquishing of the demon king Mahisasura. It was broadcast live till 1958, after which, a pre-recorded version was played. The programme has also been translated into Hindi for the Indian Diaspora.

In 1976, Bengal superstar Uttam Kumar had once recited the Mahalaya under the music direction of Hemanta Kumar. However, it didn’t resonate with the masses the same way and Akashvani went back to Bhadra’s voice.

Bani Kumar wrote the script while the eternal Pankaj Kumar Mallik gave the music. Bengali music stalwarts such as Dijen Mukhopadhay, Sandhya Mukhopadhay, Arati Mukhopadhay and Shyamal Mitra have lent their melodious voices towards Mahisasura Mardini.

In recent times, Doordarshan along with several other TV channels broadcast a visual rendering of the Mahisashura Mardini myth, usually carried out through dance, drama and music.

The story of Mahisashura Mardini speaks of the tyranny of the demon king Mahisasura against the gods and men. Unable to take his atrocities, the gods prayed to Vishnu for salvation from this evil. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva) use their powers to create a powerful female form- Durga, or ‘Mahamaya’– the source of universal power.

They bestow her with their blessings and the gods give her the weapons she holds in her ten arms. She rides into battle on the back of a lion and vanquishes Mahisasura, earning the name ‘Mahisasuramardini’– the destroyer of Mahisasura.

Mahisaura Mardini is now available in CDs and for download online.

You can listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s version here.

http://youtu.be/-uwjlI82yzk