For Bengalis, Durga Puja has all the time been a celebration of life in all its joyous, vibrant glory. It’s primarily a Hindu competition that celebrates triumph of excellent over evil because the warrior goddess Durga kills Asura and brings again peace and concord for humanity. Nonetheless, within the Jap a part of India, particularly in Bengal, the picture of Durga that’s worshipped is just not significantly considered one of a warrior, somewhat it’s of 1’s beloved daughter. Durga’s different avatar, Uma, represents the daughter that’s lovingly welcomed by all Bengali moms and it’s within the pleasure of the daughter’s arrival that Bengal busies itself in celebrating. On the primary day of the goddess’ arrival, what remainder of India celebrates as Navratri, Bengal wakes as much as the lore of Durga’s victory over evil, associated by Birendra Kishore Bhadra on the radio. Thus, marks the beginning of the ten day celebration of Durga.
Despite the fact that it’s a non secular competition, the grand nature of its celebration has all the time transcended limitations of ethnic or non secular divides. Town decked up in glittering lights and charming colors with large pandals adorned with cutting-edge structure and artistry, welcomes every one, to go to and marvel on the magnificence and attract of the goddess and their thematic decorations. It’s customary for folks of Bengal to decorate themselves up of their finest garments and go to just a few of those pandals with their mates, households, and family members not less than sooner or later of the Puja, if not all 5 days.
In 1757, the Maharaja of Shobhabazar Raj Bari, Kolkata,Nabakrishna Deb began Durga Puja in his palace on a grand scale. Since then, Durga Puja has been celebrated by sure elite households of Bengal. It is just from the start of the nineteenth century that Durga Puja got here to be celebrated as a publicly organised celebration the place all native folks contribute to their capability.
Since then, Durga Puja in Kolkata acquired a peculiar character of its personal that also stays unmatched in some other metropolis of India until date. Despite the fact that it’s a Hindu non secular competition, it transcends non secular and caste discrimination via its eager demand for common participation and its dedication in direction of producing a grand-scale festivity.
Throughout these 5 days, town of Kolkata doesn’t sleep. Vibrant streams of sunshine bathe town even in its smallest nooks and corners. Town thrives with the vivacious life and enthusiasm of Pujo and it stays up via the evening, crowding the streets with folks of their vibrant apparel even at midnight or the earliest hours of daybreak .
Over time, a lot of the thrill and attraction of Durga Puja has shifted to the revolutionary kinds and structure with which the Sarbojanin Puja, that means the inclusive Puja organised by the native communities, are erected yearly. Yearly artists, architects and engineers dedicate themselves to the development of those pandals beneath distinctive themes and inventive expressions. Oftentimes, they categorical issues about social and feminist points and make sure the throngs of pandal-hoppers visiting these pandals additionally do spare some thought in direction of sure ills that proceed to plague our society.
In 2021, Durga Puja even carved its method into the UNESCO Consultant Record of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and has garnered a global attraction to it, leading to guests from different elements of the nation and foreigners coming to town presently.
This 12 months, one of many common puja committees of North Kolkata, Kashi Bose Lane stood out to many spectators via their this 12 months’s theme, ‘Chaine Hote Uma’, that means ‘I Do Not Need to Be Uma’. It’s broadly believed in mythology that Maa Durga is a robust end result and manifestation of ladies’s power as all of them collectively work collectively to make sure the triumph of excellent over evil. Thus, Maa Durga can also be current in each single girl in our society. The puja committee selected this narrative to highlight heinous crimes of human trafficking, girl-child abduction, and compelled prostitution of ladies that usually goes unnoticed by authorities within the crimson gentle districts within the metropolis.
A puja pandal in Central Kolkata, ‘Pathuriaghata Pancher Palli’, boldly shattered all of the taboos that exist round ladies’s menstruation. They adopted the theme of menstruation hygiene and centered on spreading consciousness relating to the significance of menstruation well being via their pandal ornament. It shocked the spectators however their lovely and thought-provoking art work additionally attracted many in massive numbers.
In 33 Pally Club, the puja pandal adorned itself on the theme of pure disasters and the way human intervention is usually accountable for disastrous calamities of nature. Over time, the course of nature has been severely disrupted as a result of meddling of big companies and authorities and the consequence of that’s typically paid with lack of harmless lives.
That is how, many pandals in Kolkata, make radical statements about socio-political points that concern our society even immediately. Thus, the carnival of Durga Puja doesn’t turn out to be an antidote to forgetting our societal ills, somewhat it turns into an revolutionary methodology to power ourselves to assume past ourselves and have a look at the world via a panoramic view of social issues.
Moreover social points, these pandals additionally spotlight misplaced art-style and cultural practices of rural Bengal. From ‘patachitra’ to ‘chou nach’, ‘bohurupi’ follow, and different rural Bengal textiles and handcraft- all of those are proudly highlighted in Durga Puja pandals across the metropolis.
Naaktala Udayan Sangha, with their theme ‘Hridaypur’, loosely translated to ‘town of hearts’, takes its spectators on a reminiscence journey to the years following Bengal’s Partition. This was a time when Naaktala and its surrounding areas have been refugee colonies. By highlighting the tales of the households who crossed the border from East Bengal, now Bangladesh, through the Partition and settled into Naaktala colony, searching for a greater life, the native Pujo committee seemed again at its personal historical past.
They held up previous, discarded belongings, nameplates, cabinets, hand-written letters of these folks which will seem meaningless at first look, however via a cautious inspection, reveals to us the poignant historical past of displaced thousands and thousands. This theme touched many hearts and have become a mirror of reminiscence to the native residents themselves as they discovered their very own historical past staring again at them.
Haatibagan Nabin Pally Puja Committee recreated common youngsters’s e-book Abol-Tabol by Sukumar. They introduced the textual content to life inside the puja pandal by decking it right into a fictional world of black-white. The pandal was populated with iconic characters and set-ups, simply recognisable by all those that grew up studying this textual content in class and at residence. In addition they combined totally different types of inventive expression by internet hosting reside performances of sure sections of the texts by skilled actors inside the pandal premise.
Nonetheless, one may say that the secular sentiments of celebration and pleasure that Durga Puja was recognized for has been dwindling through the years, as non secular sentiments turn out to be extra sectarian and political. Santosh Mitra Sq., one of many common Durga Puja committees of North Kolkata, recreated an imposing picture of Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir with a hefty funds and meticulous consideration to particulars. This pandal too attracted a big crowd of curious spectators from across the metropolis.
It has been visited by a long-line of BJP leaders, together with Bengal’s governor, C.V. Ananda Bose, and the Chief Justice of the Kolkata Excessive Courtroom, Justice T.S. Sivagnanam. This pandal took on a political assertion within the coronary heart of town and challenged the transcendental ethos of neighborhood and unity that Durga Puja in Kolkata has fostered and cultivated in Bengal through the years.
Partha Sarothi Ray writes in an article for The Wire, ‘Any pandal marking the subjugation and dishonour of a specific neighborhood goes towards the very ethos of the festivities.’
With media gushing about this pandal all around the nation and having throngs of celebrities visiting it, this puja despatched out a message to non-Hindu communities of Bengal that the core values of the festivities in Bengal have modified.
There are a number of Puja Committees in Bengal the place folks from each Hindu and Muslim communities organise their puja. Sure Muslim dominated areas of Bengal reminiscent of Metiaburj, Khidirpur typically have puja committees solely consisting Muslim organisers.
All through the years, Durga puja in Bengal has by no means questioned one’s non secular beliefs or religion, somewhat has urged every one to take part all the identical. However when the subjugation of 1 neighborhood is widely known (on this case, the demolition of Babri Masjid to erect Ayodhya Temple and recreation of it within the puja pandal), then such a celebration additionally dictates who can take part within the festivities and to what extent.
In 2021, 61 Pally Membership organised their puja on the theme “Mayer Haat e Mayer Bodhon’, that means ‘Moms worshipping moms’. They broke conventional patriarchal norms by inviting ladies to worship Maa Durga. It was carried out by an organisation named ‘Subhamastu‘ led by Nandini, a former Sanskrit professor and stage performer. Of their try to interrupt away from the patriarchal mould of male supremacy within the realm of public worship, Nandini has stated that their group has no hierarchy.
Since then, many different Puja Committees, reminiscent of New City Sarbojanin, Salt Lake AG Block and few others from town have been inviting feminine monks for the puja. Nonetheless, this try to realize gender parity within the place of worship can’t be actually lauded till it addresses the oft-ignored query of caste hierarchy.
Despite the fact that the Puja pandals of Kolkata hardly ever see any outright situations of caste discrimination, a sure type of Brahmanical patriarchy remains to be celebrated when solely Brahmin male purohits are invited 12 months after 12 months to worship the goddess. Changing the male Brahmins with feminine Brahmin monks can hardly be hailed as a feminist win because it nonetheless lacks intersectionality in its method.
But, one can hope for a extra holistic, and radical change within the cultural and carnivalistic celebration of Durga Puja within the metropolis. Maybe, these questions will be raised as a result of the celebratory practices of Durga Puja permits the house for criticism and strives to satisfy the demand for extra radical evolution in its practices.
Thus, it’s now not restricted to a spiritual competition despite the fact that non secular beliefs are nonetheless intact and thriving on the coronary heart of the competition. Town of Kolkata is understood for holding onto its previous dearly, with heart-full of nostalgia, whereas the remainder of the world strikes swiftly to the longer term. It doesn’t solely have a good time the previous however carves out a gift from the previous that may accommodate and have a good time the multiplicity and variety of its inhabitants.