Bhubaneswar: Navratri and Dussehra celebrations have always been unique in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack; needless to say the twin-city comes alive with decorative lights, themed arched-gateways, and the exquisitely-designed gigantic idols during the festive season. Unlike Cuttack which remains the cynosure with intricate filigree 'Medhas', the State capital has a distinct space for colossal arched-gates besides the fun-filled 'Dandiya Raas Nights'.

With changing times, the puja festivity is not just limited to hopping puja pandals and enjoying 'Ravan Podi' (the effigy burning of evil Ravana). Over the last few years, youths in Bhubaneswar irrespective of gender have become obsessed with the metropolitan culture of stepping out of homes during Navratri to participate in the musical concerts of 'Dandiya Raas Nights'. And a few choose to go to star-studded events hosting Dandiya and Garba dances.

However, this year an uninvited coronavirus has replaced the demon Mahisasura. 2020 has been awful for all festivals, and because the world is still in the grip of the virus, the grand festival will also encounter the same fate as others.

Due to COVID restrictions, hotels and private rave organisers will not be able to conduct 'Dandiya Raas Nights' this year and young folks are going to miss the fun. The Mayfair Lagoon, Hotel Hindustan International, Swosti Groups, Srichandan's Land Ananya, Gangotri Resorts etc are the major organisers of the Dandiya Raas Nights in the city. Unfortunately, their dance floors and banquets will remain deserted as Covid restrictions are still in place.

Bishal Dhirsamant, an event manager has been organising 'Dandiya Raas Nights' with banquets for the last three years at Gangotri resorts. But this year, he doesn't have an event because of the pandemic. Dhirsamant said, "I'm a seasoned event organiser and organise 'Holi Bash', 'Raja Mauja', 'DandiyaRaas' and 'Zero Night' celebrations for New Year every single year. 2020 has been the worst year for me because of Covid. Not only me, but my friends are also dependent on our events. We are an 18-member group and all of us are sitting idle obeying Covid norms."

Holi Srichandan, owner of Srichandan's Land Ananya, has been organising 'Mega Garba Night' for the last 8 years. He earns huge profit through these events. On this year's events, he said, "We organise 'Mega Garba Night' for 3 days during Navratri. On the 'Vijaya Dashami', our event would pool over 1000 participants. We didn't earn a single penny through events this year. I will remember this year's Navratri as the dullest ever."

Nityanand Pradhan, a regular 'Dandiya Raas' participant during Navratri stated, "Since my B.Tech years I have been going to 'Dandiya Nights' with my friends. I have been to Mayfair and HHI hotels to take part in the concerts. I don't even know what the 'Dandiya' dance is. This has never been our culture, but the ambiance they create with DJ songs and lighting are the best things in a 'Dandiya Raas'. I will miss these terribly this year."

(Edited By Devbrat Pattnaik)

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