It is election time in Bihar and it has come bang in the middle of festival season. The first two phases are over and now it is time for Navratri and Durga Puja, which is a nine-day long affair. Hundreds of pandals have come up across the cities and villages which are thronged by a large number of people.
In Patna the major pandals are at the Dak Bunglow Chowk, Bailey Road, Hartali More, R Block, Nala Road, Saguna More, Patna City and Gandhi Maidan area. Lakhs of people visit the pandals which open on Saptmi (the seventh day of Navratri) and the number reaches its peak on Navmi (the ninth day of the festival). While security is always a major concern during the puja, but this time elections have meant that forces are extra vigilant.
Despite elections, the people are excited and pandals all over Patna are witnessing huge crowds. Traffic curbs have been placed in several areas and vehicles are not allowed on the roads where pandals have been erected including the famous one at Dak Bunglow Chowk which has three major pandals within a few metres of each other.
Many pandals used to have political messages but with elections taking place, the administration has asked the organisers not to put up such posters or caricatures. While the political zing is missing from the pandals, there is no stopping the devotees from pandal hopping and trying out spicy and tasty street food. Devotees say election or no election, they plan to visit as many areas as possible.
LED bulb decoration at Dak Bungalow Chowk in Patna.
Entire Patna has been decorated with tiny colourful LED bulbs giving the city a completely new look.
Durga Puja pandal made of 14 tons of steel utensils modelled on Jain temple in Chennai.
While political leaders have slowed down a little and cut the number of rallies especially on Navmi and Dashmi, but party workers have ensured that their message is sent across to a large number of people visiting the pandals. Campaign vehicles, cycles rickshaws with election posters are seen near the pandals in Patna during the day and catching the attention of people, many of whom come from the nearby towns and villages.
The cacophony of election slogans combine with religious songs/bhajans from pandals to make a jarring jingle at some places. But no one seems to be complaining. Candidates are also seen mingling with the people but without election paraphernalia so as to not attract any action from the administration.
Girls posing as goddesses at a pandal in Patna
The pandals by default have become yet another place to campaign.