KOLKATA, INDIA, October 18, 2012 (firstpost.com): As the city remains busy doing last-minute shopping before the Durga Puja festivities kick off this weekend, a group of young men rehearses shlokas and rituals at a crash course to counter a priest shortage in Kolkata. Due to the mushrooming puja committees in the city and its outskirts, a shortage of skilled priests has been felt each year. To match the demand, the West Bengal Pandit and Purohit Association is running a crash course at Maniktala temple for priests ahead of the Durga Puja.
"The number of pujas is increasing, but the number of priests has remained the same. As a result, those without having complete and proper knowledge of the rules get engaged as priests. Many of them chant wrong or miss steps while performing rituals," Netai Chakraborty, president of the association, said.
Applicants with a basic knowledge of rituals are allowed to enroll in the week-long workshop. Under the guidance of veteran priests, the students, mostly from the districts, are taught the rituals of worship and how to carry out the deity's puja in accordance with Hindu scriptures. Not only does the course encourage newcomers to take their ancestral profession, but it also acts as a refresher course for those who have been into the profession for a few years.