The Telegraph
Friday , August 3 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puja call to take vow for a greener planet

In its silver jubilee year, AK Block seeks to make a vow and get visitors to do so as well. The block, which started off its puja preparations with the khuti puja ritual on Saturday, has announced its theme this year to be “Sankalpa”. “Our budget this year will be in excess of Rs 20 lakh. We hope to startle visitors with a novel concept,” said block secretary Umapada Chatterjee, who has been at the helm for 14 years.

Theme-maker Bapai Sen has been entrusted with the execution. “The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar are responsible for Creation, Maintenance and Destruction respectively. In this pandal, we are showing how in these times human beings have assumed all three roles,” he says.

AK Park will be converted to an agricultural field with paddy being sown. In between, a total of 50 two-ft sunflower stalks made of rubber will be planted. At the centre of each flower there will be a child’s face, standing for Creation. As one walks towards the pandal, one will face a green globe being supported by three life-size human figures, the lockets around their necks identifying their religions. “I want to show that Hindus, Muslims and Christians — all are responsible for protecting our planet.” One practical illustration of this will be rainwater harvesting. Water from a sprinkler will be collected in a funnel and stored in a container below. “So many houses in Kerala have started this practice. Why can’t we do the same?” says Sen.

The pandal itself will be spread across 130ft by 90ft. “To avoid Destruction, we must vow to get rid of the evil practices or superstitions prevalent in society. Ten such practices have been chosen which have to be destroyed by each of us — abortion of the female foetus, child marriage, dowry system, child labour, use of plastic... “These will be exhibited through 10 separate puppet shows.”

Sen has roped in 20 puppeteers from Joynagar, South 24-Parganas, who will be camping at the pandal on the Puja days working in alternate shifts of two hours. “A visitor will have to spend at least 20 minutes in this pandal,” Sen states.

He is also mindful of the fact that traditionalists might frown upon the suggestion that Man is shown to be taking over divine functions. “On the outer walls of the pandal there will be the weapons of Devi Durga. This will suggest that God is surrounding us in all that we do.”

Another special feature of the puja will be the idol. While the clay goddess will be traditional in look, she will be given a metallic finish like dokra dolls. “This will mean that the figure will be complete from all directions. One can even do a pradakshin round the goddess to put a stamp of finality on one’s vow to work for a greener planet.”

Debapriya Biswas, the additional director-general of fire services, gave some tips to the organisers on fire safety precautions to be taken.

At 12.10pm, a bamboo pole was planted in the park to the blowing of conch shells and beating of dhaks. Then khuti puja was performed at its foot for about half an hour.

Residents of the block looked resolute to make a success of their silver jubilee edition. Following an agreed-upon dress code, the men were draped in white kurta-panjabi while women looked radiant in red-bordered white saris. “It looks as if it is Saptami come early here,” laughed designer Agnimitra Paul, who was one of the guests at the khuti puja. She had already won over the women of the block by her simple fashion tip: “Pujoy bhishon sajben (Dress gorgeously during Puja).” “We will pass on the message to our husbands,” giggled Sutapa Moulik, a housewife.