Durga Puja at Vedanta Society of Greater Houston Streamed Online

By Sanchali Basu

Houston: As the saying goes, “One has to change and keep up with the times,” Durga Puja at the Vedanta Society of Greater Houston (VSGH) also had to evolve with the times. In this unprecedented year of the COVID pandemic, only volunteers who were directly involved with the Puja were allowed inside the temple during the worship on October 17, when VSGH celebrated the Durga Puja.

The proceedings started the previous evening with the Durga idol being moved to the dais of the main temple. Kalabau was placed next to Lord Ganesh and the idol of Mother Durga with her children was decorated beautifully. Due to travel restrictions, Swami Kripamayananda who visits us every year from Toronto for this occasion, unfortunately could not join us this year. This happened after him visiting us 7 years in a row. Our resident sannyasi, Swami Atmarupananda who could not assist with conducting the Puja last year, was at the helm of affairs this year.

The Puja started at 10 AM sharp with great austerity and devotion, and the livestream started on the VSGH YouTube channel. Rupa Ghosh’s melodious devotional songs during the entire Puja made the temple reverberate with divinity. The entire choir could not participate due to Covid restrictions and there was no accompaniment of musicians either.

The Puja ended with the beautiful Arati performed by the Swami with the chandelier lamp to the beat of the traditional dhak, by Nirmalya Roy and Kansar ghanta, by Ramyani Roy. Devotees were then requested to offer flowers to the Mother (Pushpanjali). The few volunteer devotees in the center got to offer Pushpanjali with the chanting of Durga mantras.

Once the Puja concluded, devotees were allowed into the center through the main entrance, one family at a time to pray and offer flowers at Ma Durga’s feet. They were greeted at the entrance by Swami Atmarupananda.  Then they were requested to exit through the side entrance and pick up boxed sweets and fruit prasad on their way out. All visitors were requested to wear a mask to allow entry into the center. Some devotees sat on the center lawn area to eat the prasad maintaining social distance and enjoying the lovely, breezy mild October weather. 

Although it was unfortunate that devotees could not attend the Puja in person, the online streaming provided everyone with a good flavor of the Puja. The puja was conducted in a very efficient, devout, and smooth manner by Swami Atmarupananda. He requested devotees for the annual contribution to the center for its regular maintenance and upkeep. A donation box was kept at the entrance, where devotees were dropping off their donations.

In this unique year of the Covid pandemic, devotees were thankful and grateful that they were allowed a semblance of the real Durga Puja, if not live, at least virtual.

For more information about the activities at VSGH, please visit: www.houstonvedanta.org