Friday, October 07, 2005

tit bits of durga puja 2005

Every year, there is a rush to rope in celebrities for the inauguration of important Pujas. Normally, celebs of the silver screen, players of repute, and eminent authors are preferred apart from political bigwigs like Central ministers or the Governor. This year, one committee has obtained the consent of the CM of Manipur who will come down to inaugurate the Puja – its theme is Manipur and it is only appropriate that the CM of the state does the honors. Similarly, another committee who has selected the Mukteswar temple of Orissa as its theme waits for the nod from its CM.
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The total number of Sarbojanin Durga Pujas in Kolkata this year is 1125 – out of these, many organizers have occupied large portions of the public roads to erect the pandals where the idols will be positioned.
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Until quite recently, unimaginable displays of colored lights used to be what Kolkattans would rave about – the electricians of Chandernagore would devise ways and means of how best to project a lighted animated display of India winning the cricket World cup or of a disaster like a plane highjack or of Sourav Ganguli waving his banyan. Today, these electricians are no longer in demand. The reason is the exorbitantly high cost involved. It seems the average consumption of electricity for a display runs into 600 Kilowatts. At the current rate of one hundred rupees per Kilowatt per day, the cost on this account itself runs into three lakhs of rupees. Very few committees want to shoulder this burden – they opt for theme Pujas which consume much less electricity.
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Durga idols are made in Kumartuli – the basic raw materials are the soil from the bed of the Ganges, hay and bamboo for the framework from neighboring villages accompanied by paints and glossy varnish. There was a beautiful informative feature on the subject in the Discovery channel (24/9/2005 in the evening slot). Even though it was of the year 2000 vintage, it portrayed the pujas remarkably well. On an average, 3000 idols are made, most of them are of the traditional type, and exceptions are for those with specific themes. These are costlier hence have few takers. Once a Puja committee opts to go for a theme, its cost mounts because all associated decorative pieces light lighting, the décor, construction of the pandal etc. need to match with the basic theme. On an average the committee has to spend around ten to twelve lakh rupees to make any lasting impression on the discerning public.
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The CD has become an invaluable aid for the Puja committees – video footage of previous years pujas, showing the extent of popularity in terms of crowd pulling abilities, influence corporate houses to sign the contracts. Many of the prestigious idols are made in locations out of Kolkata (for reasons of security, so that the element of surprising the rivals remains.) It is not possible for the committee members to go there just to see how far the work has progressed. Therefore, one member is deputed to visit the site and come back with the videos – these are studied along with the craftsman and reps of associated departments like the pandal decorator, the light man etc. and suitable modifications incorporated. The intention is to get the best value for money.
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The lotus flower is a must for the main Puja on the ashtami day – the requirement is of the order of 108 pieces per Puja! The lotus blooms during the monsoons and, by the time the Pujas begin, it is difficult to lay hands on them. The flowers that usually sell for fifty paise goes up to fifteen rupees. In order to combat this, the flowers are now being plucked in advance and stored in controlled conditions in specially designed cold storages. Hopefully, it will be less difficult to procure lotus this year.
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It is reported that railway reservations are just not available to move out of Kolkata. The news in a local vernacular newspaper (dated 25/9/2005) says that more than 50,000 would-be travelers have to pray to Goddess Durga that their waiting list tickets get confirmed. The heaviest rush is for trains to Rajasthan – that is the impression one gets on perusing the demand for Jodhpur Express. This year, the railways plan for 96 Puja special trains out of which 34 are towards New Delhi. Last year the figure was 66.

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amaar duniya