Friday, September 30, 2005

durga puja 2005 is here

The festive season has begun. Ganesh pujas are over and Durga Puja is just around the corner. Kolkata Doordarshan plans to telecast a documentary made to honor the legendary Birendra Krishna Bhadra on his centenary. The program will be telecast on the day prior to Mahalaya. Birendra Krishna Bhadra needs no introduction to Bengalis – the Durga Puja festivities begin with his recitation of early morning stotras over Akashvani (All India Radio) on the occasion of Mahalaya. This is the auspicious day when Goddess Durga is supposed to have begun her journey, along with her children, from the Himalayas to come down to Earth and visit the house of her Mother.

Monsoons are beating the retreat, there is a nip in the air, the print media gives full page displays of different varieties of footwear on offer, and the Railways announce Puja special trains from various destinations to Howrah, one of the busiest of railway stations in the sub-continent during these festivities. The electronic media does not want to be left far behind – they bombard you with display of the latest in dress and fashion, of unheard of tourist destinations in and around Bengal apart from discussions on every conceivable subject under the sun related to ‘how best to extract the maximum from the four days.’ A visit to the net revealed a couple of interesting sites:

http://www.durga-puja.org/mahalaya.html
http://www.flonnet.com/fl2020/stories/20031010000106600.htm
http://www.bengalonthenet.com/puja/php/display.php?sec_id=2&sub_sec=1

In the last few years, the very concept of community celebrations has changed considerably. It seems plans for the year begin soon after the immersions of the previous year. The artists (usually from the Art colleges) who design the theme and associated paraphernalia carry out volumes of research and take the assistance of the internet to come up with attractive proposals. Once the Puja committee approves them, the activities begin. The idol making is entrusted to reliable persons who are given cell phones so that minute to minute progress can be monitored! The organizers leave no stone unturned to ensure the best value for money. In the modern age of sponsorship, it is the hype created around the Puja that matter – hype creates a curiosity which translates into greater visibility for the sponsors. In fact, large houses have instituted awards for which teams are formed by drawing together a group of talented persons (established authors, singers, sportspersons, stars of the silver screens etc.) who visit the pandals and judge the idols, the decorations, the themes, the arrangements. Obviously, the competition is intense and every organizer plays his cards close to his chest, there have been instances when spying networks are set up to collect secret information on the rival’s preparations.

For those who live outside Bengal, this is usually the period of homecoming. For youngsters, this could be an annual affair, for the elders, it may occur once in two or four years, depending on the feasibility of getting leave and considering school schedules of their children. The families normally choose to travel by train for which tickets are procured two months in advance. Once the tickets are in the custody, the count down begins culminating with frantic buying for the near and dear ones back home as the D-day approaches. The train journey remains a memorable one because you discover that practically every other passenger is in your category. You exchange notes and, in some cases, addresses, phone numbers.

other interesting links –

amaar duniya

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

durga to san francisco

This is the story of an enterprising young person who has become a pioneer of sorts in Kolkata. He is into e-biz; his products are the clay idols of Durga and her retinue that are in demand all over the world, in various nooks and corners on the occasion of Durga Puja. He started his business last year by dispatching one of his products to San Francisco. This year, he has bagged orders for seventeen – all of these are not Durga but Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Nataraj. The orders for Durga stand at three – the one from San Francisco has already been shipped. The remaining two are slated to leave for Australia and New Zealand. Innovativeness rules the day.
How did he manage to bag these orders? Through e-mail and chatting. He locates the prospective clients and starts the ball rolling. His rates are competitive – cost of the idol is around sixty thousand rupees, packing and forwarding another seventy thousand. We should be proud of this gentleman – he is a pioneer and has shown that where there is a will, there is always a way. His name is Pradyut Pal.

The following is a message he sent me on 18/6/2005 through my blog –

http://o3.indiatimes.com/rediscoveringindia/archive/2004/10/24/18120.aspx

The report of his innovative efforts made it to the front page in one of the leading Bengali dailies on 20/9/2005. Till last year, I used to get this daily paper through post – invariably, the issues would be at least four days old (transit time through the post), and still they brought me and my wife that much nearer home - especially during festivities. We would go through the pages, lap up the offerings and be the centre of attraction in our limited group. But, things have changed. Today, I get the day’s newspaper the same day itself – thanks to technology. The complete issue is the internet version; it is downloaded in Mumbai, and printed and dispatched to various locations in Maharastra. In the bargain I have lost considerable popularity because every Bengali subscribes to this paper and I do not find any thing new to add during conversations! Instead of being an exception, I am now one among many.

other interesting links –

amaar duniya
throbindia

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

durga puja celebrations world wide

The mother of all festivals is breathing down our necks. For those directly involved in the celebrations, it is panic raised to the power of infinity. Beginning from arranging for the inauguration till the immersion, there are umpteen plus one steps, innumerable number of bridges to be crossed, thousands of obstacles to be overcome. The funds of most of the Pujas are obtained through advertisements of sponsors and patrons in the Souvenir booklets. Managing to get hold of these advertisements is an art by itself and, in every committee there is a handful who have mastered this art. Obviously, they enjoy better status in society and more privileges. Rome was not built in a day; Durga Puja also is not an affair that you can complete within a time frame. The time frame invariably gets distorted, budgets go haywire and tempers become unmanageable. In spite of these known hardships, the rituals go on and on, old committees give way to the new, concepts undergo changes, festivities that once were restricted to close-knit groups have now surrendered to the dictates of corporate houses. After all, it is a part of the game known as promotions. The corporate sponsors a Puja to promote its image in the market – as you trudge through the maze of people, you are compelled to see posters, and banners of those who have taken pains to ensure that their brands are etched forever in not only your memory but the memories of all those around you, including your toddlers.

Now, about some celebrations out of Bengal but in India – the first is in Mumbai. There are several high budget Pujas here and, being closely associated with Bollywood, the glamour factor is great. The oldest is the Mumbai Durgabari Samiti Sarbojanin – this year it is in its 76th year, the budget is around thirty lakhs. Dadar Shivajipark pujas is in its 70th year and the tentative budget is eighteen to twenty lakhs. Kallol Kalibari Durgotsav is in its 40th year, budget fifteen lakhs. The one in Bandra is in its 33rd year, budget twenty lakhs. Other venues are the Khar Ramkrishna Mission, Chembur Durga Puja Association (budget 20 lakhs), Bhandup Durgotsav Samiti (21 years, eight lakhs), Vashi New Bombay Association (budget 33 lakhs), Vashi Cultutral Association (budget fifteen to eighteen lakhs), Kopar Khairan Bengali Association in Navi Mumbai (budget twenty lakhs), Nerul Aamra Probasi (five lakhs).

The Lokhandawala Sarbojanin Pujas of playback singer Abhijeet in Mumbai is in its tenth year. Its budget is reported to be the largest. Read more on this –

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1041020/asp/frontpage/story_3905320.asp

In nearby Thane, there are six to seven Pujas and in Pune, twelve to fourteen. Close by Nashik boasts of four major ones – like the ones in the Government of India Press, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the Air force in Ojhar, then the one in the industrial area of Satpur-Ambad.

Regarding Pujas in other locations, especially overseas, the following links are worth a visit -

http://www.rumela.com/events/durga_puja_overseas.htm

Durga Puja rituals -

http://festivals.iloveindia.com/durga-puja/durga-puja-customs.html

other interesting links –

amaar duniya
throbindia

Thursday, September 01, 2005

ganesh utsav 2005

The festival season of the Indians begin with the Ganesh festival which is a few days away. Preparations have already started in real earnest with pandals being erected in various ports of cities large and small. Lord Ganesh will reside in these temporary accommodations for the duration of the annual festival. He is the harbinger of all the good things, especially related to riches. Hence, whoever carries out business worships this elephant headed deity. The festival starts on Ganesh Chaturthi - 4th day of Bhadrapada Shukla (Shuddha) Paksha, when Ganesh Pratishthapana is performed and the festival is concluded with the Ganpati Visarjana (immersion procession) on Anant Chaturdashi (14th day of Bhadrapada Shukla Paksha). This year, it commences on 7th September 2005 and concludes on 17th September.

The ten-day long festival is celebrated basically in Maharastra and by Maharastrians wherever they may reside in other parts of the World. This year, in view of the havoc created by the unprecedented rains, and loss of lives and property, the celebration may be on a subdued scale. From reports it seems that plenty of idols have been damaged by the rains and flood conditions. In olden days, it used to be restricted to families. Later, Bal Gangadhar Tilak realized its tremendous potentials as an opportunity to bring people on a common platform to carry out the struggle for freedom from British rule. Hence, he converted it into a community festival in Pune. Later, it caught the fancy of the masses and propagated to far corners of the state and even beyond the boundaries of Maharastra. http://www.panditjiusa.com/ganesh_festival.htm

Coming to Nashik, there are quite a number of Ganapati pujas – the one on the Main Road is most famous, here the idol is made of silver! It is normally housed in the Ganapati temple on Raviwar Karanjia. During the festivals, it is brought outside for public viewing. Then there are the Khandave Ganapati, the Tilya Ganapati, the Varad Vinayak, the Dholya Ganapati and the Navshaya Ganapati. Details are available on the following link: http://www.nashik.com/pilgrimage/temple.html

The Pune festival organized by Sri Suresh Kalmadi on this occasion showcases the various aspects of the cultural side of Maharastra. Details of the events of 2004 can be viewed on this official link - http://www.punefestival.com/

Like so many other Indian festivals, this also occupies a prominent position on the internet. Innumerable memorabilia are on offer on attractive terms for on-line buying. There are even sites where one can perform Puja on-line based on instructions that come over the net. You may not be able to enjoy the fragrance of incense sticks but, who knows, you may be fortunate to locate a site where you can certainly light them and watch the smoke curl up into the air. http://www.astrojyoti.com/ganeshapoojas.htm

On the 14th day that is on Anantha Chaturdashi the images are immersed in the local rivers or lakes. In Mumbai, the large ones are immersed in the Arabian Sea. The TV networks dutifully relay the complete proceedings and, the gorgeous affairs are really and truly breathtaking. With chanting of ‘ganapatti bappa morya, pudcha barsha laukar ya!’ we bid good bye to the Lord Ganesh requesting him to come early next y