The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Toast to trivia, not tradition

Supratim Nandan,

A few decades ago, Durga puja used to be organised at home or in ashrams. The huge expenses of the five-day rituals have taken it beyond the reach of the noble families of dwindling financial stocks. Now, only some well-to-do families try to follow the elaborate prescriptions of the shastras. Most baroari pujas are like seasonal cultural festivals that satisfy the visitors in terms of material trappings. The aspect of worship is now overshadowed by gorgeous pandals.

Anandarup Ghoshal,

Gimmicky themes are no doubt crowd-pullers. But I think this is eclipsing our traditional Durga puja. Nowadays, puja committees are more interested in winning prizes. The actual puja is secondary to them. The young generation of pandal-hoppers, too, is more eager to see pandals and decorations rather than the idol.

Sarit Kumar Datta,
Address not given.

Gimmicky themes do not stand in the way of the traditional element of the Pujas. On the contrary, it adds a new dimension. The basis of Hinduism is not just worshipping gods by chanting mantras. There are those who believe in and practise only the traditional aspect of the Pujas. But those who promote theme-based pujas should be allowed to showcase artistry in the pandals. This helps neutralise the orthodoxy of religion. Hindu temples score high even on aesthetic scales.

Prantik Sanyal,
SP Mukherjee Road.

Gimmicks are inversely proportional to the ritualistic observance of the Puja. When one increases in importance the other takes a backseat, despite all honest efforts of organisers.

Prasanta Kumar Ghosh,

Even a few decades ago, the Pujas were celebrated with pious attention to detail. But now that has been replaced by keen competition, with an eye on prizes sponsored by business houses. We are fleeced for subscription. Lights and décor gobble up much of the budget. Images are made of bricks, biscuits, sweets, oysters, jute, matchsticks, broken records, leaves, glasses, etc. To the religious eye, this is not puja at all. Yes, the traditional element of the Pujas of bygone days is gone. Gimmicky themes have overshadowed them.

Udayan Banerjee,

Gimmicks are natural in the era of marketing. The awards sponsored by several big business houses, with cash prizes for the organisers, have given rise to unhealthy competition. Pandals are flashy, but the pujas have lost the traditional values.

Satyen Biswas,

Such gimmicks spark competition amongst the puja committees, writing off our age-old traditions. Besides, itís a colossal waste of money in the wake of the economic crisis the state is going through.

Sandhya Banerjee,
Salt Lake.

Durga puja is the biggest ceremony of Bengalis. But its commercialisation is saddening. The traditional element is gradually disappearing. Different organisations have come forward to offer awards for lighting, decorations and unique images. But elderly people still remember the goddess made of clay, which was invested with life on the day of bodhon by the priest. Times have changed. Images of Durga are made from waste products now. Display of arts and crafts is appreciated, but not in this fashion. Today, puja means delicious meals, fashionable dresses and celebrities in pandals.

Md. Tanweer,
Kolu Gali.

Nowadays, gimmicky themes are what make the Pujas. The more novel the theme, the more publicity, which means more advertisement.

Debashish Chakraborty,

Offering prayers to the goddess is what the Pujas are all about. But the tendency of most committees is to erect ostentatious pandals, along with gorgeous illuminations, in order to pull the crowd and the judges of award committees. Competition is the deciding factor. So, it can definitely be said that gimmicky themes have overshadowed the traditional element of the Pujas.

Siddhartha Mukherjee,
Diamond Park.

The traditional element of worshipping the goddess is amiss in the pandals. Large structures are erected to draw the crowds, with the idols embellished to add to the pomp. Lighting displays recent incidents. But one must admit that such gimmicks are a product of creativity and imagination. The urge to create something innovative infuses enthusiasm among the organisers and the public.

Sachindra Nath Mitra,

Flood victims in Murshidabad and Malda are deprived of food, water and other amenities. It is sad that most puja committees do not even spare them a thought. They are too busy decorating puja pandals, letting resources go down the drain. People have forgotten the basic tenet of religion ó serve man to serve God. Gimmicky themes have overshadowed the traditional elements.

Abul Fateh Kamruddin,

Puja committees have crossed all safety limits for gimmicks. Pandals made of combustible material like matchsticks may cause a fire anytime. It is just a waste of money collected from common people. Such flashy themes must be checked and simple decoration should be highlighted. Several awards have been instituted for best pujas. Canít they request the organisers to avoid gimmicks'

Tanmoy Ghosh,
SM Nagar.

With the introduction of various prizes, the traditional side of puja has suffered. Innovative look is of utmost import now.

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