Kolkata: Weddings and religious functions have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It had put the lives of god’s ardent disciples in dire straits. Many Hindu priests in this city and its vicinity are in huge problems. Some are even looking for an alternative source of income to make ends meet.
Sushanta Chakraborty, a priest in Agarpara on the northern outskirts of the city, is selling vegetables in his locality. He said that it is something his ‘ancestors couldn’t have thought of, no matter what the circumstances’.
“Some households which I had been visiting for decades to perform rituals on auspicious occasions are not inviting me anymore. Since March, I have been sitting idle. With four mouths to feed – my aged parents, daughter and wife – I finally decided to sell vegetables on a cart,” informed Chakraborty.
“Before March, I used to earn anything between Rs 35,000 and Rs 40,000 every month. Now, I barely manage to take home Rs 800 per day,” Chakraborty added.
Vijay Upadhay, another priest in the city’s Kestopur area, has taken to Facebook to urge people that they perform household rituals.
“Narayan puja rituals are now taking place without the presence of a priest in many households. I appeal to all of you to remove the misgivings and allow priests conduct the rituals,” he said.
Vinod Jha is a committee member of a Hanuman temple in Kamarhati. He said the management has decided to retain just one of the three priests on its payroll.
“The number of devotees has declined and so have the earnings. We have decided to let go of two priests and retain only one for performing the daily rituals,” Jha said.
Montu Chakroborty, a priest in Chakraberia area, however said that god’s disciples will not have to suffer much longer. He said that the situation will change for better during Durga puja.
“Some Durga puja committees have assured me that they would invite me. I am pinning my hopes on them. My earnings per month have come down to Rs 6,000 from Rs 11,000. But I know Maa (Durga) will set things right,” he said.
The crux of the matter however, is that the total number of community Durga pujas will substantially decrease if the present situation persists. The priests are aware of that, but they are just trying to be as optimistic as they can.
A spokesman of the ‘Paschim Bango Sanatan Brahman Trust’, an organisation of Hindu priests in West Bengal said that since the implementation of lockdown more than 2,00,000 have become jobless. Unless household rituals are allowed, the situation will turn very grim, he added.