Durga Puja special: Watch out for these 12 landmark Pujas in Kolkata
Themes of Durga Pujas this year are brimming with contextual ideas — be it social, political or environmental. While some pujas are raising voices against pollution, others are raising concerns about the water crisis, while most of the rest are delving deep inside the human mind in search of peace.
Here are our choicest 12 with unique themes and ideas:
Deshapriya Park Durgotsab
Location: Rashbehari Avenue
Deshapriya Park is one of the most popular South Kolkata pujas, and is famous for its thoughtfully curated themes. This year, their theme focuses on the concept of the ‘chalchitra’ the crafty covering which we see behind the Durga idol every year. The mandap will feature many forms and variations of chalchitra-based artwork to signify its importance. “This year, our theme is all about chalchitra that usually features Durga Sanskriti or the chandi paath in form of drawings. We will bring in different kinds of chalchitra, to decorate our mandap. The famous artist, Prasanta Pal, is taking care of the execution,” Rup Kumar, the cultural secretary of Deshapriya Park, tells us.
Maddox Square Ballygunge Durga Puja Samity
Location: Ritchi Road
Are you making the most of your pujas if you don’t get some downtime with your squad at the Maddox Square Puja? The Bhowanipore Puja, which has built a reputation as the go-to spot for younger crowds to hang out together, is stepping into its 84th year. The Maddox Square puja usually sticks to its bonedi (aristocratic) roots and keeps things traditional. The mandap usually forgoes a theme and instead focuses on some splendid detailing and a magnificent chandelier. “We are stepping into the 84th year, and we don’t do a theme, so we’re not changing anything, people have loved us for that! We see a huge number of crowds every year, be it at dawn or 7 pm. Also, we have eight entries and
exits,” Ranajit Chakrabarty of Maddox Square tells us.
Abasar Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity
Bhawanipore’s Abasar has one of the most interesting themes this year. The puja, that created a beautiful terracotta-themed pandal last year, features knitting as the theme for this year’s mandap, which stands as a symbol of the weaves of society. “Our theme this year is ‘bunon’, which translates to knitting. It represents how we knit our families, ourselves, our society, and our country. We can’t exactly go on without these knits, this interaction itself is life. Our theme pays homage to charkha rani, or the goddess of the loom,” Shyamal Nag Das, of the organising committee tells.
Jodhpur Park is famous for its grand-scale puja celebrations. This year the theme of the puja will revolve around the idea of creation, and the mandap itself will be the shrine of Shiva, the creator. “Everything begins with the maati (soil) or the ash—we are using fly ash, which is found in AAC blocks, to build our mandap, which will be designed like a Shiva Temple. Shiva is known as the creator of the universe, the ash symbolises rebirth that gives rise to something new,” Sumanta Roy of Jodhpur Park committee tells us. The Puja also sees a footfall of around nine to 10 lakh people a night.
Dumdum Park Tarun Sangha
Location: VIP Road, towards the airport
Last year, this multiple award-winning Puja won hearts and accolades for portraying how child labour robs the happiness out of a child’s life. This year, they are back with another equally important social and global issue of the environment through their themed futuristic Puja set in 2091. “A dilapidated zamindari palace is being recreated that has been sold for promoting in 2091. The story tries to show how Durga Puja used to be held in 2019 and beyond. There will be many things that might just be destroyed due to environment pollution and cutting of trees. There will be a huge crisis of oxygen. We have tried to show that through many props,” says Rabin Ganguly, President of the Puja. The idol has come from Odisha sculptured out of a one-cut stone.
Ballygunge Cultural Association
Location: Lake Road
The Ballygunge Cultural Association Puja is more than 50 years old and is one of the mainstays of
South Kolkata. “This year the theme of our Puja is jugalbandi, or the symphony of two. Jugalbandi
often associates the idea of something inseparable— like cha (tea) and biscuit or characters like Feluda and Topshe or even Uttam Kumar or Suchitra Sen. We’re featuring the coming together of tradition and modernity. For instance, baash or bamboo is something archaic that’s been used in Durga Puja for ages now. Whereas, there are other mediums we use which are modern and convenient, so we are featuring both these together. We have some incredible bamboo engravings as well, and some cane artwork. For the last few years, we’ve been trying to represent the lost art forms of Bengal and tell their stores to the people. Last year, we had brought in some communities which work with ‘shola’ or Indian cork and earn their livelihood from it. This year too, we are doing something similar,” Dr Saptarshi Basu, of the committee, tells us.
Location: Nepal Bhattacherjee Street, Rashbehari Avenue
Kalighat’s 66 Pally has been trying to uphold the art and indigenous communities who are associated with Durga Puja, and specifically Bengal. Back in 2018, their theme was tant shilpo, which looked closer at how Bengal’s ‘tant’ handloom weave is made. This year, they are focusing on the artisans and labour who make the week-long phenomenon come to life. “We are focusing on the people who make this Puja happen for us. We are trying to show as part of our theme how the profits acquired by our Puja eventually make it to the homes of the artisans and the workers and help them educate their children and lead a better life. It’s a way of looking at the sustainability of this festival,” Pradyumna Mukherjee of 66 Pally tells us. He also reveals that every day their pandal witnesses a footfall of eight to 10 lakh people.
Mohammed Ali Park
Location: Central Avenue
Mohammed Ali Park stunned the city last year with its Padmaavat-inspired mandap, which also featured the idols decked in traditional Rajasthani garb. Interestingly, the Puja started in the year 1969 from
Tara Chand Dutt Street, but owing to its ascending popularity, it was moved to Md Ali Park. But this year, the Puja is moving its venue yet again for safety concerns and will be held at the Central Avenue Fire Station. “For our theme this year we are creating a temple from Karnataka, our mandap and idols will be inspired by that,” Ashok Ojha, the media coordinator of Mohammad Ali Park reveals.
Bosepukur Sitala Mandir
Location: Bose Pukur bus stop, Kasba
Bosepukur Sitala Mandir has been celebrating their own Durga Puja since 1950 and has a rather unique theme this year. “Our theme this year is ‘Khuje dekho apon alo’ (find your own light), it’s about our dreams and talents which often go unnoticed by our family or the society. With our Puja, we are talking about this notion. We are using quite a few educational and learning props, so that should be interesting. Last year we worked with the indigenous people of the Gondi tribe of Madhya Pradesh, which is one of the largest tribes in the country,” reveals Kajol Sarkar, who also tells us, the Puja sees a crowd of around seven to eight lakh people a day.
Location: Near Gariahat
After Aborto last year, this year, the theme at this popular pandal is Naborosh or nine expressions of feelings. Anirban Das, who is helming the artwork for the past four years at this puja, tells us that
the nine expressions of notions like love, lust, sorrow, strength, anger, fear, hatred, wonder and
peace—have been beautifully etched out in fibre sculpture of dancing women in nine different classical dance forms that will be all over the pandals namely. Bharatnatyam, Odisi, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Kshatriya, Manipuri and Gouriya. “Ma Durga‘s idol is also being
made by me that expresses the feeling of shanti (peace), which is the ultimate of all feelings pursued by mankind for ages,” tells Das. The entire pandal will also be adorned with colourful Kathakali masks.
Santoshpur Lake Pally
Santoshpur Lake Pally’s inclusive celebrations of the Pujas by making transgender make-up artiste Shree Ghatak the Puja’s face earned them praises and footfalls from all corners. This year in its 62nd year too, they are creating a thought-provoking theme around pollution and global warming in the very recent context of Amazon’s destructive forest fire designed and conceived by Somnath Mukherjee. “Pollution is no longer restricted to air and sound, there’s water, soil and other pollutions too. We have used plastic pet bottles, tube-wells, chimney ducts, exhaust fans, waste pipes and oxygen cylinders as decorative props. The idol will be emerging from thick gree forest and there will be a plastic asura made out of fibre in a makeshift water body depicting water pollution,” says Somnath Das, general secretary of the Puja.
Chetla Agarani Club
Location: Kalighat, Chetla
This puja with Kolkata’s Mayor Firhad Hakim for its President is one of the top draws of the city with traffic virtually coming to a halt in and around the locality. The theme, ‘Kolkata Choliache Norite Norite’, conceived by renowned artist Anirban Das is around the lost nostalgia of Kolkata, things that are slowly going into oblivion with the inroad of technology. The thought has been well-put through music by Satadal Chatterjee, light by Premendra Bikash Chaki and lyrics adapted by Anirban from Rabindranath Tagore’s poem. An installation of a huge heap of old discarded letterboxes with names and addresses of Kolkata’s iconic characters and personalities including Feluda, Byomkesh, Tenida and Uttam Kumar written on them will be there inside the mandap. There will be a 30-ft tall violin player reminding us of our childhood. Also, the ceiling will be adorned with old monuments of the city including Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge and Birla Planetarium.