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Of dames, drums and Durga Puja
- All-women cultural forum at helm of affairs
A Durga idol in Jalpaiguri on Thursday and (above) the members of the all-women cultural forum in front of their pandal.
Pictures by Biplab Basak and The Telegraph

Siliguri, Oct. 11: It started in the nineties with a group of women who wanted to prove a point.

Today, more than a decade later, the Puja organised by Pradhannagar Sanskritik Gosthi (PSG) — an all-women cultural forum — has found a special place among the community pujas in Siliguri.

“Back in 1990, some of our senior members had decided to organise a puja to prove that it was not such a difficult thing and women could do it as well as men. This led to formation of the organisation and we have been carrying on in their footsteps,” said Tandra Dharsharma, the secretary of PSG.

Though the budget is low compared to some other clubs in town, the puja adds a new dimension as all the work is done by women of different ages.

“Right from collecting chanda (subscriptions) from our locality, to dealing with the decorators and the administration, everything is done by us,” said Manju Gupta, another member of the forum. “There is no pomp or show but the uniqueness of women organising a puja draws big crowds to our pandal every year.”

From Sasthi to Dashami, around 50 members of the forum are found working at the pandal along with their families.

“The pandal almost turns into our home during the five days and we enjoy the festival to the hilt,” said Bula Singha Chowdhury, who is one of the organisers. “We also hold cultural events everyday in which our children and even seniors participate, entertaining us and the visiting crowd.”

The secretary said in keeping with the decade-old tradition they will organise Anandamela at the pandal on Saptami.

“On that day, each of our members brings home-made food and to the pandal, where we share it among ourselves,” Tandra said. “Besides, a number of other events like sit-and-draw, musical chair and go-as-you-like have been lined up for the members and their children. There will also be an exhibition of handicrafts made by the members at the pandal.”

The seniors, who started the puja, are there at hand with advice and support.

“Nowadays, it is tough for us to manage the puja and that is why we have handed over the responsibility to the younger members,” said Geeta Dharsharma, the first president of the organisation. “Nevertheless, we are always there to guide them and enjoy these five days at the pandal.”

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