|Naktala Udayan Sangha
A battalion of 40 kids went around 50 city pujas on Panchami, score-sheets in hand, picking the best six that will be competing for the top honours of TTIS Choto Chokhe Boro Pujo, in association with Alchemist, on Saptami. Their routes snaked across the length and breadth of the city, a festive journey that made for a special start to Puja.
Patachitra-style Shiva and Kali welcome pandal-hoppers at Sanghasree in Kalighat.
The interiors of the pandal, too, showcase the dying art of patachitra that once thrived along the banks of Adi Ganga. Colourful images of boats and boatmen also send out a message against pollution.
“We have tried to revive the patachitra style while requesting people to stop polluting the Ganga,” puja committee member Subhankar Das said.
From a problem that’s very real to a world of dreams — the Badamtala Ashar Sangha puja offers pandal-hoppers a surreal experience. With a rotating eyeball at the entrance and an abstract presentation of idols, this puja scores high on imagination.
|41 Pally Club
Stairs symbolising the imaginary journey of the visitors to the world of dreams and soothing music for a tranquil ambience complete the voyage into the abstract.
Durga’s trident is shown rising up to the ceiling, while Mahishasur is armed with a giant sword, which is shown as being caught in a tree. This is to symbolise that nature is not letting the demon destroy the world.
The lighting is in keeping with the theme. Diyas fitted with tiny electric bulbs have been used.
The last stop on this route was the Tridhara Sammilani pandal. The wrought iron décor and imaginary clouds made with net give the pandal a grand appearance.
“We have given this pandal a royal look, where everything is perfect. We are inviting the goddess to banish all evil and make it a heavenly place, just the way she had once killed the demon and restored peace,” said Subhojit Chakraborty, the cultural convener of the puja committee.
Pandal-hopping on this route began on a cinematic note. The 41 Pally Club puja this year is dedicated to the 100 years of Indian cinema.
“We have captured glimpses from the 100-year journey of the film industry. The entrance has a clapperboard, the mandap is shaped like a bioscope and the idol is placed on a film reel. Everything took around four months to prepare,” said Dipankar Chatterjee, the chief coordinator of 41 Pally Club.
The next destination of the young judges was Naktala Udayan Sangha — a truly “rock-ing” puja.
“Our theme is Pathorer Pran. The idol has been carved out of a 16tonne sandstone brought from Rajasthan. We have tried to depict a Bishnupur terracotta temple,” said Rupak Ghosh, an executive member of the puja committee.
The hibiscus-shaped crimson mandap made of jute and cloth at Santoshpur Lake Pally had the kids mesmerised.
“As you enter through the flower, it is red but the portion where the idol is kept is green. The goddess is in the sweetest part of the flower, that is the pollen,” said Somnath Das, the joint secretary of Santoshpur Lake Pally.
From flora to fauna, the pandal at the Nagarik Kalyan Committee puja on Prinsep Street has a giant whale. The theme here is Jalraj.
|Dum Dum park yubak brindo
Buildings on both sides of the road caught in what appeared to be giant spider webs and a beautiful lotus-shaped structure emerging in its midst — welcome to Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja.
The exterior of the pandal is an example of exquisite craftsmanship with miniature aluminium and mica art. “This indeed is very beautiful, it must have taken an awful lot of time to make,” exclaimed Ananjan Nandi, a Class VII student at Birla High School and one of the judges.
The interior uses mosquito nets in bright colours cut and pasted to form beautiful designs such as a giant peacock. The idol is made of clay but decorated with porcelain.
“No puja, especially Durga Puja, can be completed without lotus,” said Ashoke Jaiswal of the puja committee, explaining the theme.
The organisers of this puja deserve special mention for their efforts to make everything eco-friendly. The pandal even has a windmill.
The next stop on the route was one that’s sure to be a hit with every kid. Machua Bazar Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samity presents Ma Durga in Candyland!
“We always choose our themes keeping children in mind. Last year we did Chhota Bheem and this year we have come up with Candyland,” smiled Rajesh Singh, one of the organisers.
Much like Willy Wonka’s factory, there are trees all around with chocolate and gum tied to them.
The puja committee promised to give away chocolates and toffees to every kid who visits Candyland.
At Lalabagan Nabankur — the next destination on the route — the theme is devi darshan. The pandal is divided into four parts. The first part has over 300 models of various gods and goddesses.
At the heart of the pandal, where Durga is housed, the air is filled with the sweet smell of sandalwood, creating a temple-like ambience.
The pandal is made of 40 tonnes of newspaper mixed with glue. “Since the entire pandal is made of newspaper, I would like to see how they have prepared themselves for protection against fire,” said Diksha Jain, a Class VIII student at Mangalam Vidyaniketan. The organisers, however, assured the judges that every possible precaution has been taken to prevent a fire.
The theme at Ram Mohan Smriti Sangha is tathastu, thus portraying the magnanimity of the goddess.
|Kashi Bose lane
If the noise of traffic and the constant cacophony of city life have left your ears buzzing head for Nalin Sarkar Street and be greeted with the sound of conch shells blowing.
The pandal is made up of conch shells, paper plates and metal baskets and the idol is based on the concept of panchatatva.
From a temple-like ambience to the replica of a real temple — the Laketown Adhibashibrinda pandal is modelled after the Tungnath Mandir in Kedarnath. At the centre of the pandal is a giant idol of Shiva, an exact replica of the one at Rishikesh. The idol here has an ashtadhatu finish.
Jingling bells add to the ambience.
The next stop was Dum Dum Park Yubak Brindo, where the pandal is a giant diya, painted in shades of yellow and orange. The centrepiece of the pandal is a grand pancha pradip.
Dum Dum Park Bharat Chakra has as its theme Kaather shaathe kaath miliye. The pandal depicts a Vishnu temple and a 12-feet tall idol of Lord Vishnu, made of more than 1 lakh small rectangular wooden pieces, is placed at the entrance.
If it was wood at Bharat Chakra, it was clay at Bapuji Adhibashi Brindo, where the theme is Maa ekhane maatir taane, shobar praane. The pandal is made with cane and date leaves.
Experimenting with contrasting colours and shades seems to be the trend this Puja. Duff Street Sarbojanin Durgotsab does just that with its theme Bhulio na eder kotha Durgotsabe.
The puja depicts four kinds of ashrams or homes — old-age home, orphanage, leprosy home and home for the differently abled, sending out a message that Durga Puja is everyone’s festival.
The organisers have taken care to use eco-friendly products such as herbal paint. “This is the first time we are participating in Choto Chokhe Boro Pujo and we are very excited at the prospect of being judged by children. They see things from a very different point of view,” said Swarup Patra, the joint secretary of the puja committee.
Kashi Bose Lane Durga Puja Committee is all about visual illusion. Award-winning artist Shibshankar Das has created flowers out of electric sockets, while the roof of the pandal creates the effect of an inverted flower.
Nabin Pally Sarbojanin Durgotsab has taken a step to breach the gap between India and Pakistan by inviting artists from beyond the border to create their pandal. Made out of 32 automobile parts such as steering wheel and hand brakes, the design is based on truck art of Pakistan.
The entire area is covered with beautiful handmade Peshawari paintings, which were completed in just 18 days.
The organisers of this puja, along with NGO Samya, provide an insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh to underprivileged families.
With Jamini Roy as inspiration, the pandal at Ramesh Dutta Street Sarbojanin Durgotsab has been decorated with paintings from the artist’s house. Children of the neighbourhood, including those from the slums, have helped make the idol with various articles of decoration.
Beadon Street Sanket Pally Basi Brindo is modelled after a Buddhist monastery, with decorated colourful flags.
“Some pandals showed a lot of creativity, while others stuck to the old tricks. However, in the end, it is not about competition at all but about giving people joy and I believe that when one visits these pandals, they will surely feel they are in the City of Joy,” smiled Siddhartha Ghosh, a student of Class XI at Frank Anthony Public School.
Hindusthan Park Sarbojanin Durgotsab Committee
Badamtala Ashar Sangha
Bosepukur Sitala Mandir Durgotsab Committee
Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja
Ram Mohan Smriti Sangha
Text by Shubhi Tandon, Shweta Keshri, Debdeep Banerjee, Abhinanda Datta and Raya Ghosh
Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta and Sanat Kumar Sinha