06:29 GMT30 November 2020
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    Durga Puja is one of the biggest and most colourful Hindu religious festivals, especially celebrated in India’s West Bengal state with great fanfare. It’s about worshipping the Goddess Durga, identified as the symbol of power.

    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated Durga Puja festivals at 10 locations in West Bengal state, including one organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday.

    This was the first time that the celebrations were inaugurated by the prime minister.

    “West Bengal has a central role to play for the development of eastern India. I am confident West Bengal will soon advance to a new direction”, said Modi in his virtual address to connect with the people of the state.

    With next year’s legislative assembly elections in mind, Modi invoked the great personalities from West Bengal, and welfare measures carried out by the federal government in the state, especially for women's empowerment.

    Elections to the 294-member West Bengal legislative assembly are scheduled to be held in April-May 2021. The nationally governing Bharatiya Janata Party is in a bitter fight against West Bengal state’s governing party All India Trinamool Congress, headed by state chief Mamata Banerjee.

    Modi, on the occasion, also asked the people of Bengal to adhere to the COVID-19 protocol to contain the spread of the virus while celebrating the festival.

    The main festivities of Durga Puja will continue for next five days, although the rituals began five days ago.

    Grand stages are erected with colourful idols of the Goddess Durga and devotees offer puja, a worship ritual performed to offer devotional homage and prayer to the deity, during the festival. On the concluding day, the idols are taken in a procession and immersed in water bodies.

    The immersion symbolises the end of the goddess’ annual sojourn to her paternal home and she returns to the abode of her husband Lord Shiva in the Himalayas.  

    Various thematic idols and facades have been made at the venues of celebrations. Many people on social media rued that the pandemic had dampened the spirit of the most colourful festival.

    ​The celebrations this year are a low-key affair, as the High Court of Kolkata has declared the venues a “no-entry zone” for visitors in view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation.

    The state reported 35,579 active cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, while 6,244 people have lost their lives to the infection, according to the federal Health Ministry. 

    COVID-19, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), Narendra Modi, West Bengal, New Delhi, India
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