Durga Puja Special: Watch out for these 18 landmark Pujas in Kolkata
Last week we drew your attention to a few noteworthy Pujas, which are exploring several themes that touch upon global issues ranging from environmental to pressing social causes. And this week too, we have hand-picked a dozen and a half more Puja pandals that are painstakingly creating something not only beautiful to the eyes but also conveying messages — deep and relevant — on issues such as water crises, the preservation of indigenous art and culture, and more. Read on:
Kumartuli Park Sarbojanin Durgotsab Committee
Kumartuli is essentially the home of the goddess before she steps into a mandap. But this year, Kumartuli Park Durgotsab is narrating a tale of stepping out of one’s own home and out of one’s perspective. This year, their theme has something to do with intergalactic connections. “This year, we are setting up an elaborate space-themed mandap. We’ll create a make-shift rocket launcher at the front of our pandal, the inside of the mandap is essentially a different planet. The people can actually stand at the cockpit of the spaceship and look down upon the Puja being held at the Earth—it’s like a shift in perspective. We’re even perfecting the detailing on the environment and beings of other planets,” Anupam Das, the secretary of Kumartuli Park tells us.
Badamtala Ashar Sangha
Badamtala Ashar Sangha is famous for the effort they put into perfecting the detailing of their themes. Last year, they built the theme of the mandap around the subject of women empowerment and featured some stellar artwork at their pandal. This year, their theme is incredibly poetic and is also about feminine energy. “This year, our theme is bindu, which is often what Lord Shiva’s ‘trinayan’ (third eye) is called. As mythology suggests, Devi Durga was created by Shiva and the other gods. And since we are worshipping the female power with our Puja, we wanted to go back to the origins,” Sandip Chakraborty of Badamtala Ashar Sangha, tells us.
Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojonin Durgotsab
One of the most famous North Kolkata crowd-pullers, this Puja is stepping into its 87th year, and artist Manas Das is in charge of curating their theme. This year, it has a refreshing theme that’s incredibly relevant to our times. “Our theme this year is karma e dharma, which loosely translates to ‘work is religion’. It’s about acknowledging that it is our work that makes us who we are, irrespective of our religion, race or background. Last year, too, we had pursued a theme to represent a side of the human condition. It was titled Magna Chaitanya, and it was basically a closer look at the smartphone generation where people are out of touch with their own selves and the people around them, which is in fact, isolating them terribly,” Jayanta Chattopadhyay of Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojonin Durgotsab, tells us.
Location: Paschim Putiary
Ajeya Sanghati’s Puja makes for an unmissable spectacle every year, and this year, they are upholding some incredible folk art from the region of Hazaribagh. “This year, our theme revolves around some ritualistic art techniques from Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand, namely Sohrai and Khovar, which are widely used in the region for many years now. Sohrai comprises artwork which they make when the indigenous population is harvesting, whereas Khovar is mostly made in black and white during wedding festivities. Most people across the country are not aware of these homegrown art forms, as they are practised in only eight to nine villages in the region,” Taraknath Das, the artist behind the concept, tells us.
Every year Hatibagan Sarbojanin finds a way to pursue more relevant ways to conceptualise their theme while keeping the history of our culture in mind. This year, too, they are doing something similar. “Our theme is titled chalir panchali and revolves completely around the art of the chalchitra as it is such an integral part of Puja, and also has a rich history behind it. The chalchitra used to be such a big deal at the oldtimey, bonedi Pujas, we are bringing its significance back and using it in various ways in our entire pandal. We’re aware that the theme is quite traditional, but we’re trying to approach it in a fresh manner,” Shyamal Roy Gupta of Hatibagan tells us.
Bosepukur Talbagan was one of the first Pujas in the city to feature 3D projection mapping in their mandap, as a part of their theme a few years back. Interestingly, the Bosepukur Puja is relatively new as it has only been happening for 28 years now. This year, their theme is about going green, and will actually feature a forest in its mandap. “This year, we will show a Durga Puja being held at the heart of a forest; we are using date palm leaves and sal leaves etc to make an artificial leafy forest, and we have titled our theme parnachhaya, which translates to a leafy shelter,” Shubhendu Ghosh of Bosepukur Talbagan, reveals.
Santosh Mitra Square Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity
One of the biggest Pujas in the city, Santosh Mitra Square is famous for their grand spectacles. Last year, their mandap featured a silver chariot, almost 60-feet long, while the 2017 Puja saw the goddess adorn a stunning 22-kilo gold sari. “This year we are designing our pandal along with the likes of the ISKCON temple for Srila Prabhupada, and the inside of the mandap will resemble Jaipur’s Sheesh Mahal. This year, our idol will be 13-feet high,” Sajal Ghosh, of Santosh Mitra Square, tells us. He also informs us that as per the records of Kolkata Police, last year the Puja saw one lakh people every hour during the four-day duration.
A South Kolkata staple, no puja itinerary can be complete without visiting the Barowari puja Mudiali Club at least once. This year, Mudiali is bringing you a smorgasbord of colours, as part of their theme, which has been conceptualised by artist Gouranga Kuila. Located at the heart of Kalighat, the Puja usually keeps it traditional when it comes to the idol and the mandap, but they go the extra mile when it comes to the detailing. For their 85th year, Mudiali’s pandal will feature some intricately arranged lights, and the strategic interplay of colours to enhance the festive feel of the pandal.
Babu Bagan Club
Babubagan club, where thousands of people gather every day of the Puja to witness their mandap, is waving a flag for peace this year, as their theme is titled shanti rupena samsthita, which is also a Durga chant. “We are showcasing the art of Pingla village and using their local art to give out a message about environmental preservation. Last year too, we had featured Bishnupur’s art,” Saroj Bhowmick from Babubagan Club tells us.
Lake Gardens Peoples’ Association
Location: Lake Gardens
Like many Kolkata Pujas, Lake Gardens Peoples’ Association’s festivities also has a focus on the environment and the existing climate crisis, for its 69th year. “Our theme is titled E bhabe o phire asha jay that implies coming back to the roots. We are centering around nature and how we exploit the environment for our own benefits. But if we let nature be, it comes back to us and it nurtures us. Nature has a way to secure its place,” Gaurav Bhattacharya, committee member, remarks.
Ahiritola Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity
This year, Ahiritola Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity’s theme is titled Ajante or unknown, which has been executed by artist Tanmoy Chakraborty and revolves around the persisting water crisis in the country. Chakraborty reveals he has recreated the famous historic stepwell Rani ki Vav in Gujarat, which is situated on the banks of Saraswati river. The stepwell was rediscovered in the ’40s, and features some of the most flawless Maru-Gurjara architectural detailing, which has been re-imagined as part of the Ahiritola mandap.
Pally Mangal Samity, Taltala Ground
Location: Prince Anwar Shah Road
One of the oldest Pujas in the city, Pally Mangal Samity started its roll in the ’60s. Several Durga Puja grounds feature fairs and exhibits during the four-day festivities, Pally Mangal Samity is centering its theme around the people who are involved in bringing these seasonal fairs to us, and who work hard to give us joy. The theme conceptualised by artist Sourav Nag will go into detail as to what it really takes for the vendors, artisans, workers involved in various local fairs to execute a fair.
Gariahat Hindusthan Club
One of the most important South Kolkata Pujas is organised every year by the Gariahat Hindusthan Club. This year they are really stepping it up when it comes to showcasing the indigenous culture across the expanse of the country. The mandap is being designed by artist Shibsankar Das, who is known for
his refreshing approach to pandal-making. Their theme this year is titled Adi Roshe Shohor Moje which aspires to uphold the rich tapestry of colour, culture and customs which originate from the tribal communities of the country.
Tala Barowari Durgotsab
For its 99th year, Tala Barowari is going for gold with its theme titled Sonay Mora 99. Artist Sanjib has worked primarily with golden grass, which is a plant mostly available in Brazil. While artisans in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar use golden grass for utilitarian purposes, Saha has used it extensively to create ropes, hanging coasters and much more to decorate the mandap. One glance at the pandal will tell you all about how the Puja is ushering in its 99th year, and it’d be a mistake to miss this one!
Laketown Adhibashi Brinda
Location: South Dum Dum
The quirkiest Puja in town, Laketown Adhibashi Brinda never ceases to amaze us. The poplar Puja has attempted every theme under the sun and has aced it every time. From setting up the artificial North Pole to re-creating a real tree, they’ve done it all! Prasanta Das from the Puja committee tells us that this year they are revolving the set-up around the Indian mythology, and are showcasing some archaic customs for their 57th year.
Young Boys Club
Location: Near MG Road Metro Station
This Puja is celebrating its Golden Jubilee year and they have chosen the Balakot Air Surgical strike as the theme this year. The entire sequence of the Balakot Air Surgical Strike is being recreated by artist Dev Shankar Mahesh from Midnapore along with a fighter plane and a mock-up of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who went deep into the Pakistan territory. This puja, located near Tara Chand Dutta Street in central Kolkata, is a big draw among the North Kolkata residents. “This is not only a
landmark year for our puja which completes 50 years but also for the entire country. We felt it was only befitting to showcase the Balakot Air Surgical Strike as our theme to pay homage to our soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the country so that we can stay peacefully,” says Rakesh Singh, chief organiser of the Puja.
Baguiati Balak Sangha
Location: Baguiati, near the airport
This 64-year-old Puja is having shristi or creation as its theme. “We are showing that in destruction lies new creation, and how the world is being devoured by Asura and how we can save it. Here the Asura represents plastic pollution. I have used plastic pet bottles, caps water and oil buckets and drums, pipes, AC foam pipes and plastic waste pipes,” says artist Sourav. The idol is being made by renowned artist Utpal Bose.
The Behala Club Durga Puja falls into its 75th year, and this year their theme is all about celebrating the rich folk history and culture of the country. “We are focusing on the folk festivals that exist across the country, like the Charak Puja (celebrated in Bengal in honour of God Shiva), Gajan Festival etc that we don’t see being celebrated in urban life. The younger generation probably doesn’t even know these names. We are curating the theme to represent these folk festivities that are integral to so many lives in the country,” Sayantan Bhattacharya, of Behala Club, tells us. Last year, the club had a theme revolving around the history and relevance of Bengali as a mother tongue. Bhattacharya also reveals that the club sees a footfall of at least a lakh each day during the Pujas.