|Doll's house: A puja ode to kathakali
SUCHANDRA ROY CHOWDHURY,
Gimmicky themes often get priority over the puja itself. But the religious significance of the Puja prevails even today. Popular taste is changing and so is the perception of people. But theme-based pujas have an aesthetic appeal. The pandals help revive the dying handicraft industries. Therefore, theme-oriented pujas increase the festival’s glory rather than diminish it.
Offering devotion to the Devi is puja. But the tendency of most puja committees is to erect pandals made of odd ingredients in order to attract crowds and awards. So it can be admitted that gimmicky themes have overshadowed the traditional element of the pujas.
Govind Das Dujari,
Human psychology is such that it doesn’t like monotony. People like changes in decoration of pandals as well as the idol. There are two sections of people who throng puja pandals. One section comes with a religious mindset. These are generally the local residents. The other section comes to admire the pomp and novelty in decoration and lighting. People of other religions obviously fall in the second category. Sometimes these themes are unique and artistic. The traditional element of the Pujas is still there for those who want it. Those who don’t, will not visit Puja pandals if gimmicks are not there. What is the harm if gimmicks coexist with the traditional element'
Gimmicky themes not only overshadow the ritualistic element of the Puja, but also destroy its sanctity. Puja organisers throughout the city are so obsessed with awards that they have converted the Pujas into a show-business.
Religious sentiments rule in aristocratic household pujas where the rituals are held with due solemnity. But now, community pujas outnumber household pujas. The lure of awards sponsored by business houses has led organisers to the path of gimmicky themes.
Some organisers have brought in tremendous changes in Durga puja with their innovative ideas. These ideas are being accepted by the public which stands in queues for hours to see the execution. But the traditional essence and element of faith are strong even under the canopy of new ideas and modern themes. The ideas just add a bit of fun to the Pujas, but faith certainly lingers despite the changes.
Dum Dum Park.
Durga puja is held in its traditional purity at a few addresses like Belur Math, Sabarna Roychowdhury’s house in Barisha and in north Calcutta houses like Sovabazar Rajbari, Laha Bari, Sil Bari, Mallick Bari, and Bose Bari. But in most community pujas, gimmicky themes have overshadowed the traditional element of the pujas. Even Goddess Durga’s idol is made of unheard of materials.
Address not given.
The pujas have generated competition in various categories by the grace of companies seeking publicity to extend their businesses. It is a sorry sight to see Ma Durga in competition to win a crown like Miss Calcutta. This year, even her lion was not exempted from the prize race.
Raja Rammohun Roy Road.
It is less of Durga puja and more of theme puja these days. Every puja committee wants to bask in the limelight of recognition. The commercial houses are to blame for this. May be Ma Durga is also waiting in fear of the day when we will be celebrating Independence Day, with the proceedings sponsored by hard drink manufacturers.
Gouri Bari Lane.
Definitely not. With the passage of time, people’s tastes have changed. New creative ideas have developed. These are reflected in the pandals. It is not wise to think that gimmicky themes have shattered the traditional element of the puja. Rather, they draw more people to the pandals. The Pujas have not changed, the occasion now holds more attractions. As a result, it has been recognised as a national festival and draws tourists from abroad.
The traditional element of the Pujas has been overshadowed by gimmicky themes, which have made the Pujas attractive to the young generation. It is actually pathetic to see how the pattern of worship has changed. It is no longer a festival of good prevailing over evil but a show of power and wealth.
It is true that outward show is receiving the attention of puja organisers, and worship of the goddess has taken a backseat. They focus on gimmicky themes — constructing the pandal with earthen pots, biscuits, candles and the like — in order to attract people. If such gimmicks carry on, the basic objective of the Pujas will be frustrated.
SR Das Road.
Nowadays, to attract people, sponsors and prize-awarding companies, liberties are being taken even with Durga’s traditional look. Gimmicky themes are spoiling the essence of Durgotsav. Devotion on seeing the Devi is gradually disappearing with the advent of the artistic idols. If our objective is to create artistic pandals and sculptures, aimed at awards, why not place the idols in museums, and celebrate four days of Durga puja exhibition on the Maidan' Today’s gimmicks may not stay tomorrow, but the traditional puja cannot be overshadowed as it is deep-rooted in our culture.
Puja, according to the new generation, means four days of lights, decoration, pandal-hopping, buying and sporting new clothes. Few people know exactly what the Pujas are all about. The traditional significance of the Pujas should be inculcated in the present generation so that it is not misguided.
Salt Lake City.
Most community puja organisers are more enthusiastic about decoration rather than the religious rites, such is the lure of awards. But recognising that our focus has been diverted from the actual puja, some commercial establishments have also announced awards for practical puja performance, which is laudable.