KOLKATA, INDIA, October 22, 2020 (The Guardian): Every autumn the streets of Kolkata come alive with the sounds of Durga Puja. The Hindu festival, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil, is marked in West Bengal and neighboring states as a time for dancing, drumming, eating and worship. Yet the festival's most defining feature is the pandal -- towering displays of religious sculptures depicting the story of Durga Puja: the moment that the Hindu Goddess Durga triumphed over the demon Mahishasura. Pandals are known for their creativity, and this year, as the festival began on Thursday under the restrictions of Covid-19, it was no different. But now, in several pandals, instead of the usual sculptures of the Mahishasura demon, a new malevolent being has been put in its place: the coronavirus demon, better known as the Coronasura.
Babu Pal, the secretary of the artisans association of Kumartuli, the street in Kolkata where most Durga Puja icons are made, spoke of the inspiration behind the Coronasura they had made for a customer. "Corona is the demon that everybody recognizes, it is the demon that everybody is fighting, and we are all looking for the strength to defeat it," said Pal of the sculpture. "Also we had no Covid cases in our artisans area, and we wanted to make this icon to thank the Goddess for protecting us from the demon of corona here."
The pandemic has altered this year's Durga Puja beyond recognition. West Bengal, a state still battling rising cases of coronavirus, introduced a series of strict measures to prevent millions coming out into the streets and causing a feared surge in cases. The 4,000-plus pandals across the state, the biggest and most popular of which usually draw in millions of visitors, have been banned from allowing anyone but organizers and performers to enter.