Kolkata:  As the city remains busy doing last-minute shopping before the Durga Puja festivities kick off this weekend, a group of young men rehearses 'shlokas' and rituals at a crash course to counter priest shortage in Kolkata.

Due to the mushrooming puja committees in the city and its outskirts, a shortage of skilled priests is felt each year. To match the demand, the West Bengal Pandit and Purohit Association are running a crash course at Maniktala temple for priests ahead of the Durga Puja.

"The number of pujas is increasing, but the number of priests has remained the same. As a result, those without having complete and proper knowledge of the rules get engaged as priests. Many of them chant wrong or miss steps while performing rituals," Netai Chakraborty, president of the association, said.

Applicants with a basic knowledge of rituals are allowed to enrol in the week-long workshop. Prabhakar Nanda, a young priest from West Midnapore district, said he joined the course to learn more about the profession and brush up his skills.

Under the guidance of veteran priests, the students, mostly from the districts, are taught the rituals of worship and how to carry out the deity's puja in accordance with Hindu scriptures.

(Agencies)

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