Thursday, October 14, 2004

idols of durga 2004

As is well known, Bengalis are basically artists and poets art heart.
Every year, the Durga Puja presents opportunities to them to showcase their talent. This is revealed in the extraordinary methods employed and the innovativeness displayed in the makings of the idols. Conventional Pujas use a straw skeleton on which layers of clay are applied to give it the shape of the relevant deities. The mandaps (place where the idols are kept, rituals are performed and devotees come for darshan) are normally made of bamboos and different colored cloth pieces. However, on the occasion of these annual festivities, imagination goes wild and you find most unconventional materials being used. Based on reports in newspapers, I have compiled a few examples which I feel are worth putting on record for posterity.

There are a few prestigious Pujas where finance is never any constraint. Like the Ekdalia Evergreen, the Singhi Park, Santosh Mitra Square, Mohammed Ali Park, College Street, Park Circus Beniapukur etc.. For the organizers, conventionalism is passé. They do not feel it necessary to advertise them since they know people will flock to their Pujas, come what may. But, a whole lot of others leave no stone unturned to capture one of the prizes on offer by the corporate houses. Including sending spies a-la James Bond to find out the themes and strategies of competitors!!

So, here goes –

Khudiram palli (Behala) – the idols are made of mahogany tree trunks. The artist had, last year, made the idols of special clay called ‘pora mati’ – the idols were not immersed as is customary but were retained by a five star hotel for display in its lawns!

For Ajeya Sanhati, Haridevpur, the theme is Nagaland.

The theme of New Alipore Suruchi Sangha last year was Kerala, this year it is Rajasthan. The fine workmanship of the intricate grille work is likely to take your breath away. Golf Club Road Puja also has Rajasthan for its theme. The Golden fort of Jaisalmer is depicted on the outside whilst, the Junagad fort is inside. The 45 feet high mandap is made of plywood and bamboo.

The Adarshpalli puja on Roy Bahadur Road is displaying South East Asian Buddhist pagodas.
In North Calcutta (Ram Mohan Roy Road), ten lakh pencils have been procured to prepare the mandap. In Udayrajpur (Madhyamgram) the idols are made of wood shavings, whilst in Priya Nath Mallick Road (22 palli, Hazra) coal has been extensively used (nearly 1.5 tons).

Bhawanipur Durgotsav Committee has resorted to jute and its products - an added attraction here is an exhibition of jute products. Simultaneously, Vivekananda Athletic Club is promoting silk cocoons – tasar, muga and edi ) – here also an exhibition will be held on the life cycle of silk worms, history of silk etc.. Haridevpur 41 palli has employed the hard shell covering of ‘kad bel’s, strips of bamboo and leaves of the palash plant to construct their pandal. These ingredients were brought from Orissa, Jharkhand apart from districts of Bengal.

Lokpalli (Santoshpur Lake) has procured 40,000 hand held fans (called ‘talpatar pakha’ – fans made out of the leaves of palm trees) from South Bengal – on them stories of Manasa Mangal will be depicted through drawings and paintings. The pandal will also be made of these hand fans!

The Putiary Club of South Calcutta is celebrating its platinum jubilee – hence, its pandal is being made of marble. Ichapur Harisabha Sangha, Barrackpore, is displaying an ancient palace with ancient carvings on its walls. Alongside, the Lake View Park Sarbojanin is building a pandal like that where Godess Athena is worshipped – the idol of Durga is in Grecian fashion.

Regarding different themes, Kalighat Sarbojanin Maha Shakti puja has selected Tagore’s favorite poem – kumar parar gorur garhi (means ‘the bullock cart of the den of potters’). A complete potter village, replete with bullock carts and characters created by Tagore will be on display. Similarly, South Selimpur 94 palli is putting on display that famous short story of Tagore – Kabuliwallah (the man from Kabul). There was a hit film based on the same story where the role of Kabuliwallah was played by Chhabi Biswas, the doyen of Bengali films. The influence of Tagore is evident in some other pandals also. like Jadu Mallick Road in North and Nepal Bhattacharji Street 66 palli on Rash Behari in the South – the former has selected ‘bidushak’ and the latter ‘khudita pashan’ (the hungry stones).

Happy viewing to all Calcuttans – for others, if you can make it to Calcutta, you can add to the list, appreciate the variety and understand why Bengalis are what they are!!