Punaga, a small village situated 3 kms from Jagatsinghpur town, is known for its traditional Bengali Durga Puja owing to the Bengali community settled there.
This year, however, the town wears a deserted look on the occasion of Dussehra as neither devotees nor relatives and friends throng the place.
Goddess Durga has been worshipped in Punaga as per Bengali tradition for the last 500 years owing to the nearly 400 Bengali families making up the community there as well as its adjoining village, Badabag.
The festival of Durga Puja, especially sacred to Bengalis and Odias alike, is celebrated with fervour in this village by all communities.
The occasion witnesses a beautiful blend of religious and cultural activities of different communities and as such, the village attracts devotees from far and near every year.
However, this year there is no such multi-cultural crowd celebrating the festival, as the ever-looming threat of COVID-19 haunts people everywhere.
“It feels as if the pandemic has shattered all the joy and happiness in the world.
Every year our uncles, aunts, cousins , in-laws and friends used to gather at our village for the celebrations, but this year COVID-19 has managed to dampen all the festivities.
It is not possible for anybody to come because of the restrictions, and it feels as if a pall of gloom has descended upon the village,” said Ranjit Bhattacharya, a resident.
“Relatives and friends coming from near and afar creates a festive environment and brings new freshness to our mundane lives.
People put on new sarees and ornaments, and children are particularly in the mood for fun and enjoyment.
However, this year there is no such festive environment as the COVID-19 has caused many restrictions to be imposed on us,” said Sumitra Dey, another resident.
The village is known for being the birthplace of former urban and higher education minister cum BJP leader Samir Dey, freedom fighters cum MLA Priyanath Dey, Jatiya Kabi Birakishore Das and MLA Krushna Chandra Mallick.
Dey, who lives in Cuttack with his family, is known to come to his native village for the Durga Puja celebrations every year.