Durga Puja in Kolkata is a one-of-a-kind experience. Every year, pandal organizing committees compete against each other, follow different themes and try to outdo their previous efforts. This year, a few Durga Puja organisers in Kolkata have chosen Bengal politics and COVID-19 as their theme. Several clubs have even appointed artists who have been badly hit by the pandemic. From political themes to normalising conversations about mental health, check out how Kolkata pandals are celebrating Durga Puja this year.
1. Unnayan Samiti Club, Kestopur
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s historic win in the West Bengal Assembly Election 2021 has earned plaudits all over the country. Of course, a bit more in Kolkata, which has led to one of the Durga Puja organisers wanting to put up an idol of the Chief Minister next to Goddess Durga’s. Popular artist, Mintu Pal, is working on a fibreglass idol sculpture at his Kumartuli studio. To add more authenticity to the idol, it will be draped in Banerjee’s signature white saree and flip-flop slippers.
According to a report published in The Hindu, the ten hands of the durga idol, instead of holding weapons, will showcase all the development projects carried out by the Chief Minister for the state.
2. 75 Pally, Bhawanipore
Another puja pandal in Kolkata celebrating Banerjee’s significant win has opted for the ‘Ghorer Meye’ (daughter of the house) theme. Committee official Subrata Das told The Hindu, “Ms. Banerjee is the Ghorer Meye of Bhawanipore. Many hoardings hailing her as Bhawanipore’s daughter have come up here in the last two months.”
3. Ashwini Nagar Bondhu Mahal Club, Baguiati
The Durga idol at the Baguiati pandal will be wearing a golden mask stressing on the importance of wearing them and adhering to all the social distancing norms. And in such times as a pandemic, it only makes sense to follow protocol and propagate safety measures.
4. Baghajatin Vivekananda Milan Sangha, South Kolkata
The pandemic has somehow helped generate conversations around mental health and normalise it. With an aim to overcome mental health taboos in India, a puja pandal in South Kolkata has decided to focus on anxiety and depression as their theme. Apu Saha, secretary of the Puja committee, told Times Of India, “The pandemic has had an impact on mental health. Our pandal will focus on the issue of depression. There will be artefacts and art forms showcasing medication and other ways of recovery from depression.”
5. Uttar Kolkata Sanhati, Maniktala
The lockdown and isolation created a mental health emergency for kids as well that needs to be addressed. A puja pandal in the Maniktala area has decided to focus on the issues faced by kids during the pandemic. With schools shut for almost two years and being restricted to minimal human interaction, the pandal will highlight how online learning has impacted kids.
6. Rabindra Memorial Sporting Club, Kasba
The sporting club has also opted for a COVD-19-centered theme to spread awareness. Arnab Chowdhury, the Puja committee secretary, told Times Of India, “This is the first time we are experimenting with the idols. While sticking to all Covid-related guidelines, we want to send out a message that the Covid demon can be slayed if we maintain basic rules of masking, sanitisation, physical distancing and making sure we get vaccinated.”
7. Women priests to perform puja at 66 Pally Puja
In a first, a group of four priestesses has been appointed to conduct all the rituals of the five-day long Durga Puja festival this year. Nandini Bhowmik, who leads a team of four women priests in West Bengal, will be performing the puja at 66 Pally Puja, one of the most popular Durga Puja pandals in the city. Pradyuna Mukherjee, senior office-bearer of the Puja Committee, told the Times Of India, “Four women are all scholars having great command of scriptures, professors in their respective fields, and fit the bill as a worshipper of the goddess in every possible way.”
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