Puja celebration amidst fanfare in Meghalaya

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Shillong, Oct 7(UNI) Hundreds of devotees thronged different pandals on Durga Puja here and offered prayers with the authorities making elaborate security arrangements to avert any untoward incident during the festival in this predominantly Christian state of Meghalaya.

Young and old attired in their new clothes were seen gathered at pandals to get ''darshan'' and ''ashirvad'' of Goddess Durga.

In fact, the hill state has one of the oldest Durga temples in the country, the 500-year-old Durgabari at Nartiang in the Jaintia Hills where the goddess is worshipped by the indigenous tribal populace.

The Pujas in the hills have a distinct and different aura altogether.

'' Unlike in the plains, where pomp and opulence is the order, the Pujas here are more homely,'' says Subrata Haldar, a native of Kolkata who has now made Shillong his home.

''I don't go to Kolkata during the Pujas any more. In fact many of my friends and relatives come here,'' he says.

However, this year, Shillong is all set to witness a ''very different'' kind of illumination, Central Puja Committee (CPC) general secretary, JL Das said.

'' There will be new innovative illumination. Every Puja pandal, including those with small budgets will also compete with each other to bag prizes under various categories, especially decoration, illumination and hospitality,'' he informed.

A grand drum beating contest involving traditional dhakis is held every year. This time, the Jagganath Mandir at Thana Road, Police Bazar will host the event on the last day of the Puja, Navami.

Another feature has been added to the Puja programmes for the last few years. Dusehrra would be celebrated by burning the effigy of Ravana at the immersion ghat on the banks of the Wah Umkhrah river at Polo Grounds immediately after the immersion of the idols on Vijaya Dashami.

Meanwhile, state capital Shillong is agog with reverberations of the haunting beats of the traditional 'dhak' (drum) rendering the air festive, even as the district administration has stepped up security measures in view of the puja. Police patrolling has been intensified in the town to maintain peace during the puja celebrations.

UNI RRK RH SB RN1711

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