Sunday, 1 September 2013

Paving the path for a new dawn of Theme Pujas since the 1970s

Often, a lot of people wonder, like everything else, how Durga Puja has evolved over the past decades or even centuries. We hear about the legacy from our parents and even grandparents and at times receive quite a few interesting insights and know about events that took place in those ages.
To begin with, the basic concept of theme Puja emerged about 40-50 years back. ‘Kumartuli’ idols of Maa Durga, were considered to be class apart and superior in artistry as well. For our parents going out for Puja Parikarma during those four special and auspicious days from Mahasashti to Navami, was the most exciting part.
According to an account narrated by a friend’s mother, she had experienced some of the best days of her life, enjoying Durga Puja, especially the part where they would visit different Pandals and view different kinds of idols of Maa Durga. In those days there wasn’t much variety in the idol decoration and creation. But idols which came in from the hub of Maa Durga idol makers, namely Kumartuli, received special attention. This is because most of the highly talented sculptors and artisans belonged to that area and actively participated in creating some of the most beautiful and memorable Goddess Durga Idols of all time.
During the 1970s, a period to which most parents belong, Durga Puja was more about illuminations and lightings. Various incidents and events from the mythologies were taken up and relayed through the beautiful and artistic designs portrayed via moving lights. Purely with the help of electricity and colourful tiny bulbs crafted on wooden structures, forming various images and silhouettes of different Gods and Goddesses, actions like the killing of Mahisashura by Maa Durga, Maa Durga gathering power and becoming an epitome of Shakti (power)and much more were enacted. These special lightings took away most of the attention and gradually initiated the transformation from traditional to theme Puja across West Bengal.
Idol Sculptors in those days concentrated much more on the beauty exuded through the idol of Maa Durga rather than creating a unique sculptor based on “Life on Mars” or a designer pandal made out of clay pots or cups. Every idol was more beautiful than the other and the sculptors perfectly captured the power and beauty lying within the bosom and face of Maa Durga. The images captured the vibrant as well as the feminine and motherly side of Goddess Durga, simply with the help of soft mud and a beautiful saree with the necessary ornaments. In those days welcoming and pleasing as well as performing the religious ceremonies diligently for Maa and her children mattered much more than pleasing the taste, greed for variety and appeasement of the onlookers.
Then it was all about the fun and frolic associated with the Barowari Pujo within the locality, enjoying with friends and family rather than comparing one Theme Puja and Idol of Maa Durga to another. Simplicity was the only special feature of Durga Puja in those days with a touch of illumination that paved the way for a new concept and style for future celebrations.

Very old photograph of Durga Idol. Probably from late 19th or early 20th century
Image Source:

Sunday, 18 August 2013


Kumartuli is the one of the most popular place in Kolkata, this place known for Idol making.

Durga Idol at Kumartuli

 Durga Idol at Kumartuli

 Durga Idol at Kumartuli
Durga Idol
 Durga Idol ready for

 A porter makes a Durga Idol
 Durga Idol at Kumartuli
 Durga Idol after Painting - Kumartuli, Kolkata

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Durga Puja Celebration in Delhi

Memoirs of Durga Puja at Mini Kolkata-Chittaranjan Park, Delhi

Delhi- a city of joy, fun, freedom and danger, sets stage for one of the best experiences and some of the most cherished memories associated with not just the people there but also the traditional Bengali culture to which we belong. This amazing city holds the potential to give a taste of our own Durga Puja which can touch the very depths of anyone’s heart in a way no less than experiencing the grandeur of Durga Puja in our own city Kolkata.
The hub of Bengalis and thriving Bengali culture in Delhi with the highest population of resident Bengalis is Chittaranjan Park, nicknamed CR Park. This locality has everything that we Bengalis need to survive, a massive fish market with the best fishes in the city, shops selling Kasundi, Shorsher Tel (mustard oil) & Posto (poppy seeds), a massive Kaali Mandir (Goddess Kali’s Temple), kiosks selling rolls and Mughlai food and what not.... It is no wonder that the locality is termed as ‘Mini Kolkata’.
Among all these attractions, the most engulfing attraction is Durga Puja, which is celebrated with the same zeal and enthusiasm as it is done in Kolkata. During this period, CR Park and Kolkata become mirror images of one another. This is a description based on the experiences of a Bengali group, who had newly moved to Delhi and had seen the celebrations of Durga Puja in both the cities. Durga Puja in CR Park, Delhi is a much awaited festival as much as it is in Kolkata. During this period a rainbow of cultures come together at Chittaranjan Park just to experience the Bengali Durgotsav in a place outside its origin.
Bengalis, who have experienced such integration of varied cultures, proudly claim to have been a part of this beautiful blend in a place outside their home town. Starting with the morning ‘Anjali’ on Mahashashti to the Puja Parikrama (pandal hopping) on Mahavami, Bengalis replay their entire Puja experience of Kolkata in Delhi itself. What is even more astonishing is that the concept of ‘paraar pujo’ is not alien to Delhite Benagalis.
The New Bengali group in Delhi got a little worried and felt home sick on the auspicious day of Mahashtami, as they were unaware of how and where to offer their prayers to the Goddess of Power. Sooner than later they realised that there were at least 4-5 Idols in and around the locality, namely Saket. They were overjoyed with this discovery and overwhelmed with the fact that they could offer prayers to the goddess at a Pandal close to their residence, as is common in Kolkata. The same evening they proceeded to CR Park, for Pandal hopping and were shocked to see the turnout. It was a scene beyond their expectations-extreme traffic, hoards of dressed up people, Bengalis, Punjabis, Tamilians, Gujaratis all alike, roll and phuchka kiosks....uffff. Nothing seemed different from their own Kolkata and since the appetite for their culture was not satisfied, they went for Pandal Hopping again on Mahanavami. On that day the crowd was even larger and the traffic was even worse than the day prior to that as it was the last day of this great festival.
Next morning on Dashami, it was announced in the newspapers that the turnout of pandal hoppers at CR Park was even more than 1 crore. Above everything else, what these numbers say is that our very own Durga Puja is not only a part of our precious Bengali culture but it is residing in the hearts of people from varied cultures and backgrounds in different cities across India. Maa Durga has the “power” to bring together all the cultures, a diversity and difference created by mankind.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sharadiya or Pujabarshiki

Sharadiya is the pioneer portal which has single handedly attempted to restore the old magazines of Bengal.
The 70s’ of Bengal, popularly known the era of Bengal’s revolution, also witnessed an emergence of young minds, authors and poets. The college street area, the coffee house tables and canteens of both Presidency College and the Calcutta University saw a surge of young guns writing pamphlets and little magazines which got published in puja magazines like Anandamela, Sharadiya from Ananda publishers and many more. The strong write ups in Bengali inspired people from all languages to write constituting a small yet vibrant literary meet in Bengal. Those writings with time has lost its importance and gone into oblivion. Sharadiya attempts to preserve those writings in their original form so that the forth coming generations of Bengal are not forbidden from the reading and experiencing these great creations of Bengal.

Durga Puja brings with itself joy, laughter and merriment for the year. Puja is the time for new dresses, delicious food, new music releases and Puja Barshiki. The books released during the festive season have become an indispensable part of our lives. Children, the young and the old are all fond of these magazines. Eminent publishing houses come out with special editions with numerous exciting stories. Puja Barshiki has interesting articles, novels and short stories from well-known authors.
Some popular Puja barshiki or Sharadiya puja Sankhya are Pujabarshiki Anandamela, Shuktara, Desh, Sharadiya Anandabazar Patrika, Sananda, Nabakallol, Bartaman, Sharadiya Patrika, Pujabarshiki Anandalok, Sharadiya Bhraman, Kishore Bharati etc.

Cover photo of Various Sharadiya or Puja Barshiki issue 
 Cover photo of Various Sharadiya or Puja Barshiki issue