Many Puja organisers in town have switched to Plan B rather than wait for the weather gods to relent.
Calcutta received 43.8mm of rain in the first four days of October and the cloud-filled skies on Mahalaya portend more wet days in the run-up to Sashthi next Thursday.
The gloomy forecast has prompted pujas big and small across the festive landscape to come up with alternatives, if not compromise on their decoration plans. The changes include modifying artwork and even the pandal layout to ensure there are no smudgy setbacks.
The last four days of September had logged 75.3mm of rain and the first week of the new month has brought little respite, making caution the catchphrase wherever there’s a pandal in progress.
According to the weather office, the monsoon trough is passing over the Bengal-Odisha border and there is heavy incursion of moisture from the sea. “That’s a sure recipe for rain,” a Met official said
Metro toured some of the big-ticket pujas to find out how they have been coping with the rain disruptions.
The organisers apparently chose a bad year to have a series of installations depicting “old north Calcutta” in the open. Only the platform for the idol has a roof.
|A tarpaulin sheet covers an installation
at Ahiritola Sarbojonin
A few days ago, the skies opened up just when the tarpaulin sheet thrown over the bamboo scaffolding had been removed for a while. The paint along with wallpapers pasted on ply walls, windows and staircases got damaged.
The solution? Cover the entire pitch…er…pandal with tarpaulin stretching from one terrace to another! The sheet is rolled up on one terrace and pulled open with a rope running through a bamboo channel the moment there is a hint of rain. Around 30 pedestal fans are being used to dry up the wet ply.
|Artists work on models under a shed at Suruchi Sangha in New Alipore on Friday.
Pictures by Tamaghna Banerjee
Minister and patron Aroop Biswas had envisioned a mini Bengal in the New Alipore pandal, only to see rain reduce it to a shambles with just a few days to go for Puja.
The green paint used to create a Darjeeling tea plantation has been smudged, the clay models of Bankura look deformed, the hay roofs of clay houses in Midnapore are a mess and the mangroves of the Sunderbans are little more than a waterlogged cranny.
The organisers are working overtime to cover the hay roofs with transparent plastic film, repaint the installations and create a drainage channel and temporary gully pits across the venue.
A pump has been brought in to drain out accumulated water.
|An organiser at Chetla Agrani looks up at the cloud-filled sky as workers prepare to replace the original paper-mat floor with concrete tiles
This puja with minister Firhad Hakim as its patron was to have paper-mat flooring with hand paintings inspired by a temple in Purulia. Rain has poured water on that plan.
The organisers are replacing the paper-mat flooring with plain brown tiles.
“It has been raining so much that it would be impossible for us to put paper mats on the floor. So we decided to scrap the original plan,” said Samir Ghosh, who is in charge of the pandal.
The organisers have also been forced to replace the tin gate with a bamboo one. “The metal frame became rusty at several places after frequent rain, so we dismantled the gate. We are now working on a bamboo entrance, covering it up with coloured pieces of cloth,” Ghosh said.
Behala Nutan Dal
|Behala Nutan Dal, where rain has caused much damage. (Tamaghna Banerjee)
Mayor Sovan Chatterjee’s pet puja is based on the theme of an atchala mandir in a rural setting.
The blueprint includes village courtyards with floors caked in cow dung and mud, clay murals on the outside walls of the temple and paintings on the floors.
Rain has reduced the clay floor to a muddy mess, damaged the clay murals on the walls and washed away the colours of the paintings on the floor.
As a last-minute solution, the organisers are replacing the clay floor with a concrete one. “The plastering is meant to be rough rather than smooth and we are mixing clay colours with concrete to make the floor look authentic. The murals on the walls are being replaced with patachitras,” an artist in the team said.
Mohammad Ali Park
|A platform being built over the slushy ground at Mohammad Ali Park
The organisers’ first attempt at a theme puja in 45 years has hit a hurdle.
The open area where artists have been recreating scenes from the Mahabharata — the decisive game of dice between the Pandavas and Kauravas and an installation depicting Krishna holding the reins of Arjuna’s chariot — has turned into a slushy ground fit for a game of mud football.
In previous years, visitors would enter and exit the pandal through the sides of the park. This time they would need to walk through the middle of the park, so it better not be slushy.
The solution is a wooden platform to cover the entire open area, raised eight inches from the ground. On this platform will stand the installations along with a walkway for visitors.
Some of the clay models will be moved inside if the sky stays overcast, the organising committee said.