New Delhi: The drum beats and the dancing peaked and the tears flowed freely. Thousands of Bengalis and others in the capital bid an emotional farewell to goddess Durga on Thursday, with an estimated 600 idols being immersed in the Yamuna river.
The five-day long Durga Puja drew to an end, but not without a last burst of celebrations that saw women smearing vermilion on each other and greeting the goddess with the `baran` ritual as if she were one of them.
Many cried as the idols - of Durga and her four children - were loaded on trucks for immersions, a tradition that symbolises her return to her marital abode.
"Nearly 600 idols of the goddess were immersed in the Yamuna this year," a spokesperson for the Joint Procession Committee, which oversees the immersions here every year, said.
Immersion processions began around 2.30 p.m. from Durga Puja marquees.
The deities were shorn of their non-biodegradable accessories before being taken from marquees to trucks before proceeding to immersion points at Kalindi Kunj, ITO Bridge, Geeta Ghat and other smaller points.
"We were handed 25 environmental guidelines by the Central Pollution Control Board for immersion," Samir Banerjee, general secretary of the GK II Durga Puja committee, said.
"The foremost among them mandated the use of organic colours and a ban on plastic waste and dumping of flowers in the river. We abide by the guidelines every year," he added.
The Durga Puja at GK II celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.
"This year, we asked for two cranes and six short lifts to transport the idols from the point along the road where we disembark to go to the river. The surface is uneven and we cannot carry the idols by hand," he said.
Nearly 250 idols from the capital were immersed at Kalindi Kunj.
The spokesperson for the Joint Procession Committee said several voluntary organisations at the immersion points on the river took it upon themselves to recycle flowers, wood, reed and knickknacks used in the puja ceremonies.
While flowers are recycled for natural dyes, the natural waste including clay is recycled for use later, he said.
The eco-checks along the Yamuna began a couple of years ago when the government was alarmed by the plight of the river in the capital and NCR region.
Studies cite that Delhi dumps nearly 57 percent of its waste in the river and contribute nearly 3,000 million litres of sewage per day.
Traffic was also controlled in east Delhi and north Delhi at the immersion sites.
Police also heaved a sigh of relief for security reasons as the puja, which had begun Sunday, passed off without incident.
A terror alert had been sounded by the Delhi administration. "But it was peaceful by the grace of god," Additional Deputy Police Commissioner Asif Mohammed Ali said.
"We had instructed the organisers to install CCTVs and other surveillance mechanisms, depending on their budget," he said. "And the puja committees had complied."
This is also the first time the state government worked with puja committees to deploy civil defence volunteers for additional security, the officer said.