Visit the photo gallery of Puja 2008 Kolkata
This is not an article about what is Durga Puja and its backgrounds, history, rituals , mythology etc. For that plenty of websites are present in the internet. Follow this link to a great site with all these information.
I will try to narrate the over all feelings and enthusiasm with this festival. Truly the people of West Bengal, from all income groups, religions, castes wait for this festival through the year. This is open to all. The Devipakhshya starts from Mahalaya. Seven days before the actual four day festival named as Mahasaptami, Mahastami, Mahanavami and Vijaya dasami. In fact,today is Vijaya dashami and I am writting this, I have on call at my hospital today.
Tridhara Sammilani Pandal
Preparation for this festival starts months before the actual festival. Marketing for puja for all sorts of things, starting from garments to electronic gizmos, all is bought in the context of Puja. For this buying spree, all the companies, malls, shops decorate themselves and offer different discounts, lottery, competition and so on. All the malls, markets remain flooded with buyer. the whole city and in fact whole state remain in the festive mood.
Durga puja previously used to be held in very few houses of rich people like landlords, where all the people of those area use to gather and celebrate. This culture is still on. The 100 to 150 years old Pujas in different family are still carried on by the generations, and everyone is welcome to be with them and celebrate. Meanwhile, when I cannot say, a new culture came. The residents of an particular area united and share funds to hold Puja at that area. It is called 'Barwari Puja'. Slowly this Barwari Puja changed its character. Now very popular, there are plenty of such pujas throughout Bengal. Funds in the form of Ads and sponsorship started pouring into it and they grew bigger and bigger.
Some of the pujas became of very big budget up to 50000 to 80000 USD!
Now each block or apartment, having few hundreds of residents organize their own Puja. All the apartments have their own. They contribute, collect money from sponsors and organize festivals for these days. A stage is made in almost all the pandals where people of all ages perform different cultural programs. Sometimes celebrities are also called to inaugurate and perform in big budget pandals. They also arrange for lunch and dinner at the pandals, where all residents come and enjoy their food together. Its an awesome feeling altogether.
Here is a video clip of culural program in my block. Quality is not great, as it is taken by mobile phone. But surely vibrartion of the festival will reach you.
The pandals are visited through out the day and night for all these three days by millions of peoples. So nice to see so colorfully dressed men, women, kids of all ages with high spirit and enthusiasm hopping around the pandals, in spite of all sorts of problems like parking, crowd and nowadays terrorism. No one complains. All are happy.
The pandals also changed its characters with ages. Now its really sometimes unbelievable, how such artistic pandals and idols are made. Any amount of praise to the creativity of the artists will be small. Now a days each pandal is made in particular theme. This year there were many themes regarding global warming, go green etc. The main pandal use to depict some famous mandir or historical structure, either from India or abroad. See the photos and you will be wondered by knowing that these are all temporary structures using different kind of materials like, board, plywood, cocnut skins, hay etc and will be dismantled and destroyed just after four days! See the idols, each one is an excellent piece of art and will be immersed in Ganges on Vijaya dasami.
The different companies held competition and announce prizes on different aspects, like best pandal, best idol, best managed puja, best puja managed by ladies, and so on, which adds more attraction to the visitors. They are also asked to vote for their favorite pujas through their mobile phones. This year Tridhara Sammilani puja is expected to get the most prestigious award.
A special dance 'dhunuchi dance' is held in many pandals and local competition is held for that too, is participated by many enthusiastic. Here is a video of dhunuchi dance of my block ladies, which was transmitted live in a popular TV channel.
Today is Vijaya dasami. The image of Maa will be immersed in the Ganges with great devotion and everyone will greet each other by hugging and pranam to get blessings from the elders by touching their feet.
From tomorrow the daily routine will start, all will go to bed today night with heavy heart, wishing the next Puja will be more great more prosperous more enjoyable to all. Maa will come again to her own land, own home to bless us.
This is a leading Newspaper article for you, to see Puja with the eye of Beth A. Payne, American Consul - general, citizen of USA.
Beth A. Payne, American consul-general in Calcutta, a judge for CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja on Ashtami, pens an account of her first Puja in town:
"I have been going pandal-hopping from Friday and the first thing that strikes me about the Durga puja is that it is very public. Anyone regardless of his or her income, class, caste or religion is welcome to participate. At its heart and soul it is a festival for everyone.
There is a lesson in the story of Durga who comes to Her home on earth every year and it is our duty to welcome Her to an earth that is not destroyed by pollution and environmental hazards.
Durga puja also yields itself to a very relevant symbolism today. She was created by all the gods who gave Her their respective weapons. It talks of working as a team where you give what you are good at. We can combine our forces and create a Durga today from our energy. Pollution, neglect, misuse of nuclear weapons are all demons which this Durga can fight to save the world.
Tridhara Sammilani was by far my favourite among the finalists even though there were others which followed the rules by the letter. What works for the particular puja is that it is open on all sides and there is a lot of room for people to circulate.
The depiction of the Tamil Nadu-style temple and the very south Indian idol was a delight for a photographer like me. It was one pandal that truly inspired me.
I am stumped by the creativity of the people of Calcutta. I learn a little more about Durga every time I enter a pandal as every pandal tells Her story in a different way.
There is something about Bengal that I think inspires creativity.
I am glad that I joined the True Spirit Puja team as a judge. It took me to parts of Calcutta that I had never been to before and showed me how one can encourage voluntary development of environment-friendly pandals and foster community spirit.
As this is my first Puja in Calcutta, I am glad I got around to seeing so many pandals. I even gave anjali while judging one of the pandals on Ashtami and I am doing this after 18 years!
The last time was at a friend’s place and I did not even know what it was called.
I am eager to experience the whole Durga puja affair so I will be taking a boat out to the Hooghly on Friday to see the immersion and be shutter-happy with my camera.
I am posting all these photos on Facebook for my family to see what Durga puja is like.
My only regret is that I missed going to the ghats on Mahalaya to see the whole process of people giving offerings to their ancestors.
But there is always next year."
Taken from "The Telegraph" on 8th October 2008