Durga Puja 2018 Special: The city's best pujas, the 'Dazzling Dozen of Kolkata'
Kolkata is a city of poetry, processions and politics. It is also a city of Durga Puja. At no time of the year does the city look as seductive as during Durga Puja, when colours, lights and hundreds of artists create what is possibly the world’s biggest display of installation art carefully curated and built around well crafted themes straddling a diverse range of topics such as transgender issues, child labour, sex workers’ rights and going back to nature.
The city alone has about 3,000 community pujas. Indulge picks a dozen of the remarkable ones. Enjoy the visual feast.
Sreebhumi Sporting Club
This 46-year-old Puja organised by Trinamool MLA Sujit Bose entered the Guiness Book of World Record last year for being the biggest crowd puller among the Pujas held in Kolkata, with more than 1,000 people visiting the pandal every five minutes. This year, too, grandeur is the USP. The pandal is a replica of a Rajasthani palace, akin to the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat.
The interiors have heavy ornamentation all over with mirror works and jharokhas and huge chandeliers adorning the pandal. Also, Ma Dugra is wearing gold jewelleries weighing 12 kg, designed by renowned goldsmiths, Senco Gold. To keep the Goddess safe, there are 500 personnel of a private security firm apart from the administrative security and scores of CCTV.
Ekdalia Evergreen Club
Organised by Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, this 76-year-old Puja is a must-see in the list of revellers. The gorgeous idol by Sanatan Rudra Pal, the huge chandeliers adorning the ceiling and the illumination all around, are the major attractions of this Puja, located on posh Ekdalia road, near Gariahat, in the heart of south Kolkata.
This year the pandal has been designed after the famous Brihadeshwara temple in Tamil Nadu, dedicated to Lord Shiva by Raja Raja Chola. Surprisingly, this Puja has never gone the theme way like the other clubs in Kolkata. It has hold on to its traditional, puritan form.
The swelling crowd each year is a testimony to the fact that traditional baroyaari Puja still has its appeal amidst the theme Pujas. This year a giant 32 feet Chandmala has been inaugurated consisting of three discs of 8 feet in diameter each. This installation is under consideration for an entry to Limca Book of Records 2020.
Chetla Agrani Club
This year the theme of this Puja of urban development minister Firhd Hakim, is Bisarjan (immersion). Renowned artist Anirban Das has built an esoteric atmosphere, where he aims at taking you alone, face-to-face with your creator, to immerse all your ego, pride and prejudice and come out a reformed and better human being.
The idol, in black, looks imposing and so does the ambience, which has a spiritual feel to it.
Naktala Udayan Sangha
The 32-year-old Puja is extremely popular and is in the award-list of most of the competitions for its unique themes and thoughts. This year, the puja, organised by education minister Partha Chatterjee, has Kaal, Samaya or time as its theme. Conceived by Sushanta Pal, the theme and pandal depicts the dynamic nature of time. The clay idol is loving and resplendent.
Shib Mandir Club
Designed by Bimal Samanta teh theme is Maatir Taane.
It depicts the all-engulfing consumerism that has grasped us and how one needs to go back to nature to derive simple pleasures of life since happiness doesn’t emanate from things material.
The entire pandal has been made with discarded materials like broken glass bottles, bricks, coconut shell, rope, fruit carts and other such things. Samanta says the message is that happiness can be derived from small things in life.
Bakul Bagan Club
Badhon Chhera Pran is the theme this year for Bakul Bagan. For this 50,000 beetle leaves have been brought from Ishaa Foundation, Coimbatore. Beetle leaf has been chosen to show that how when a leaf falls off from the tree is of no use to anyone just like when one is in the prime of his youth and best of his career, he is loved and wanted, but once away from the limelight, gets no attention.
Tridhara’s Puja theme this year is Mritshilpa, an ancient form of pottery art in Bengal. It's a big Puja organised by TMC councillor and MMIC Park, KMC, Debasish Kumar.
To showcase pottery, kalash and other such things have been extensively used by artist Gauranga Kuila and his team.
Santoshpur Lake Pally
This Pujas, to make it more universal and inclusive, Santoshpur Lake Pally has made transgender make-up artist Sree Ghatak the face of the Puja. With footfall of over five lakhs each, the 61-year-old Puja has made their pandal with four tons of turmeric, both in tuber and powdered form.
The club has involved the LGBT community members at every stage of the Puja, from the construction of the pandal to art works to making the idol and even immersion.
Mohammad Ali Park
One of the most popular Durga Pujas of Central Kolkata Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja showcases magnificent architecture every year.
This is the 50th year and to mark celebrations, the organisers have kept Chittogarh Fort and Rani Padmavati and the theme.
Rs 1.5 crore has been spent to create the 45-feet tall mandap in all its grandeur.
Bhawanipore 75 Pally
In its 54th year, artist Biman Saha has chosen a theme that would take each visitor down the memory lane.
All over the Puja premises you will find glimpses of your childhood memories, which will take you back to your childhood days and make you feel nostalgic. The idol is a traditional one with a modern touch.
Ahiritola Jubakbrinda, a well-known Durga Puja Committee of North Kolkata, has kept the theme of their Durga Puja as Utsarito Alo (emerging light) this year and has paid homage to all the sex workers of the city. “Our society takes pride in the devotion to Devi Durga, yet fails to worship the womanhood in all of its forms and walks of life. We are determined to support the journey of the sex workers and pledge to return their basic rights to live in the society,” says Uttam Saha, working president of Ahiritola Jubakbrinda.
A 300 feet-long street graffiti has been drawn portraying the immense contribution of this community and featuring their untold story which the society has always been ignorant to. Beginning with a door with three women’s faces peeping from behind to a distorted ‘Kumkum Line’ on a woman’s forehead signifying the tragedy of her fate, the graffiti depicts the touching story of this community. “The graffiti is to educate people about the fact that sex workers are mothers and sisters as well. The third eye painted in the artwork showcases their lives and feelings of rejection”, says Debarjoon Kar, Curator of the graffiti.
Dum Dum Park Tarun Sangha
This year the Puja’s theme is built around those little children, whose Puja days are spent working in a tea shop. As others have fun and frolic, these little children spend their days washing countless tea cups and dishes in shanty roadside stalls.
The entire pandal is built with utensils and tea cups and other such things usually seen in roadside tea stalls.