The revamped hall at Bihar Club in Ranchi will give shelter to pandal-hoppers. (Hardeep Singh)
Ranchi’s apex Puja committee is paying a tribute to the visiting divine mother and her children by arranging free night halt for women devotees and their offspring who come to the capital from villages to pandal-hop.
Pandal-hoppers of modest means, who come to the capital from villages or city outskirts and fail to get return vehicles at night, can head straight for Bihar Club near Kutchery Chowk that is now being converted into a Puja dharamshala (guesthouse) by Mahanagar Durga Puja Samiti.
There, at least 300 women and children can stay overnight in the large hall on the building’s first floor.
“It is the first time that we have decided on something like this. The hall is being readied now for women and children. We will open it from October 19 for Puja days,” said Ajit Sahay, coordinator of Mahanagar Durga Puja Samiti.
The venue seems apt as many well-known Puja pandals, including Chandra Shekhar Azad near Albert Ekka Chowk, Bharatiya Yuvak Sangh at Bakri Bazar, Rajasthan Mitra Mandal near Ranchi Lake, Satya Amarlok Harmu Road, RR Sporting Club at Ratu Road, are all at walking distance from Bihar Club.
The hall has bathrooms, toilets and drinking water facility. Organisers will also arrange mattresses, as nights will become chilly with monsoon officially bidding the state farewell on Monday.
“Even policewomen deputed on pandal security can take some rest after their duty hours at night,” Sahay added.
For propriety’s sake, men will not be put up with the women. They have the option of waiting nearby at the Bihar Club pandal. But most likely, they will go pandal-hopping.
In recent times, a good number of visitors from nearby villages Namkum, Kanke, Pithoria, Ratu, Itki, Bero, Tupudana and others, come to see the glitzy theme pandals in the state capital. Many who can afford it, reserve autos. Others, high on optimism and low on funds, board normal autos that ply only till around 9pm. There’s a gap till 5am. So, hordes of people, including women and children, just keep hopping from one pandal to another waiting for dawn — something that can be unsafe or tiring or both.
When contacted, rural pandal-hoppers planning to pay the capital a visit, seemed delighted with the new arrangement. “Our women relatives will definitely make use of the Puja dharamshala,” said Prashant Sharma, resident of Mahilong village near Tatisilway.