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Crowds throng puja mandaps in Garo Hills

By Correspondent

TURA, Oct 15 � Despite the recent bomb blast in the heart of Tura market by suspected Garo militants belonging to the Garo National Liberation Army, the Durga Puja celebrations have gotten off to a grand start here on Maha Saptami as hundreds of people flocked to the colourfully decorated and brightly illuminated puja mandaps.

There are 21 puja mandaps in Tura town and this year�s main attraction is the 125th anniversary celebration of the Nepali Durga Puja in Garo Hills.

The Durga Puja celebrations began on Wednesday with the ceremonial installation of the idols of Goddess Durga and her four children, and the beating of drums to kickstart the nine day earthly sojourn of the Goddess.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma visited the puja mandaps on Friday along with senior Cabinet colleagues and MLAs. Senior district officials including the Deputy Commissioner, Sanjay Goyal, and the Superintendent of Police have been visiting the puja pandals even as security remains tight at all venues.

The devotees in large numbers visited the puja mandaps to offer prayers and seek blessings from the Goddess. The evening hours witnessed the largest number of puja revellers with each puja mandap making every effort to attract the largest number of visitors by having set up dazzling illumination and colourful decorations.

Puja mandaps at Nakham Bazar, Tura Main Bazar, Milan Sangha, Nepali Mandap had one of the the best decorated venues coupled with a beautifully created idol of Goddess Durga. Devotees have been doling out prasad and khitchri on a war footing to the several thousand revellers who thronged the mandaps.

Young girls and boys dressed in their finery mingled with the large growds of puja revellers and gatherings are at its peak from 7 pm to 10 pm.

Visitors have been dazzled with the architectural design of the Milan Sagha puja mandap at police parade ground. The organisers have constructed a model of the ISKCON temple as its puja mandap.

To mark its 125 years celebration of Durga Puja, the Nepali puja committee has erected a gitantic welcome gate fully illuminated several hundred metres ahead of the mandap. Special cultural programmes for young and old such as dance competitions are also being organised which will witness the famous Wangala dance of the Garos and the traditional Manipuri dance.

Artists from Guwahati and Siliguri in Bengal have been specially flown in to belt out top Bollywood songs to the enthusiastic crowds of revellers during the evening hours.

Since February, the year long celebrations of the oldest Durga Puja mandap has been taking place. The Nepali puja committee has successfully organised a string of events including cricket and football tournaments, besides holding blood donation camps and distribution of food and medicine to the inmates of the Tura Tuberculosis hospital.

Interestingly, this will be the first time that the Nepali Durga Puja will not hold the traditional animal sacrifice that has been continuing for many generations. The Nepali Puja committee has decided to completely do away with the buffalo sacrifice on Navami.

�This year our Durga Puja theme has been �Love and care for life and the environment� informed Pravin Panthi, a senior member of the Nepali Durga Puja organising committee.

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