New Delhi, Oct 19: Innovation in times of financial crisis – this is a theme that seems common to the Durga Puja preparations across the national capital.
As the puja committees blame the economic slowdown, dearth of cash, inflation and police clampdown for low budgets, they are also making the most of the constraints with innovative themes such as ecology, rural life, Bengali icons and cuisine.
Despite the money raised comparing poorly to last year’s, at the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja, one of Delhi’s oldest pujas where the festivities will enter the 103rd year, the colour green and Bengali tradition are touchstones for the rites of invocation.
“Every year, we allow non-profit groups to collect flowers used in the rituals to extract eco-friendly colours. This year too, many groups are keen to harvest used flowers,” Samarendra Bose, an old-timer at the Kashmere Gate puja committee, told IANS.
Even the idol is eco-friendly, with the ‘ek chala’ (single frame) idol sculpted in chalk to help it easily dissolve in water during immersion. The idol has been made by Biswajit Pal, an artisan from Kolkata. The ‘pandal’ or marquee has a rustic flavour reminiscent of the idyllic life of Bengal’s lush countryside, Bose said.
The spotlight, however, is on food. “The ‘bhog’ is important. We feed at least 3,000 people every year,” he said.
Like Kashmere Gate, the emerging theme of this year’s Durga Puja in different parts of the capital appears to be food.
On Oct 21, there will be a four-hour Delhi Food Walk tour. It will take food lovers through Chittaranjan Park, the hub of Bengalis in the city, to taste kathi rolls, phuchka, jhaal-moori, mutton ghugni and fish cutlets and catch a glimpse of the dhonochi naach, the graceful ‘arti’ (invocation) dance before the idols to the beat of the dhaks, the traditional drums . As many as 126 people have have already booked their place.
But puja committees in and around Chittaranjan Park have been hit by a new problem – the police banning erection of elaborate gates on main roads adorned with sponsors’ billboards. With no billboards, not many sponsors have come forward, shrinking the committees’ coffers.
At the K-Block puja, the scaling down of ostentation will be compensated by nine items on the bhog menu. But the budget on the marquee, idol and decorative lighting has been slashed by Rs.500,000, said an organiser.
The theme of the B-Block puja will be the 150th birth anniversary of seer-philosopher Swami Vivekananda. The marquee will resemble the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari and the interiors will echo the Belur Math – a spiritual retreat outside Kolkata.
There will also be portraits of Vivekananda and extracts from his address at a convention of religions in Chicago in 1897.
The Navapalli Puja Samiti in Pocket 40 will depict how the households of landlords in rural Bengal celebrate the festival in ‘thakur dalan’ – the pillared courtyard outlying private shrines.
The Puja committee in Durgotsav, Greater Kailash-II has adopted the girl child as its theme all over the pandal. Maha Kumari – the figure of a schoolgirl standing over on a lion and carrying a trident and a disc – will be at the entrance of pandal that will have a village mud hut facade and have walls on which children will be allowed to paint.
The high point would be serving of ‘bhog’, the sacred meal, to thousands of people every day, served by the women of the puja committee.
“But the rituals will not stray from tradition and Goddess Durga and her pantheon are decked in the traditional ‘dhaker saj’ silvery finery,” Samrat Bannerjee, an organising committee member, told IANS.
The Milani Puja in Mayur Vihar will pay a tribute to the iconic artist of the Bengal School, Jamini Roy, on his 125th birth anniversary. There will be a miniature of his house from Bankura district and his paintings reproduced on earthen pots.
The Safdarjung Enclave puja was lucky as it did not fall short on money due to fat sponsorships. It will, as such, celebrate the London Olympics and India’s performance there and showcase replicas of the Wembly Stadium and the London Bridge.
(Madhushree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)