When it comes to the art of mounting pujo pandals in Kolkata and other towns of West Bengal, the theme and message have taken considerable artistic precedence. Plans are chalked out a year in advance and the vision is accompanied by artistic and budgetary scope in prominent baroaris around Kolkata.
Jagaddhatri Puja in Chandernagore has been home to numerous theme pandals over the last two decades with famed artists helming projects that have travelled the length and breadth of the country. Two such pandals have been transported to Chandernagore for Jagaddhatri Puja from Kolkata this year.
The pandal seen at Kashi Bose Lane Durga Puja has made a reappearance at Santan Sangha in Chandernagore
Uttaranchal Jagaddhatri Pujo Committee on Santan Sangha Maidan in Chandernagore has brought in the much-talked-about pandal of Kashi Bose Lane for this year’s themed pandal. Conceptualised and executed by artist Rintu Das, the pandal in all of its intricacies explores the important theme of girl child trafficking and exploitation. The installations contrast the image of a girl child as the supreme goddess with the image of her as an object falling prey to patriarchal lust.
Talking of the idea behind bringing the pandal to Chandernagore, Satyajit Paul, core committee member, Uttaranchal Jagaddhatri Pujo Committee, said: “We have always prioritised delivering a social message with our pandals over abstract installations. The process began last year after Puja and involved layers of planning and a clear understanding of constraints — social, logistical and financial.”
People thronging the pandal in Chandernagore
Paul feels it’s important to experience and embrace the negative underpinnings to arrive on the final positive note on which the pandal stands: where female children are seeking freedom from the goddess. “It’s not a visual project but an experience with a very important message that comes with the audio, videos and the art in synergy,” added Paul.
Speaking about the discussions and the reception surrounding the pandal, Somen Dutta, general secretary, Kashi Bose Lane Samiti said: “People have acknowledged it as an experience worth their time. I have been flooded with pictures from Chandernagore and it feels great to know it has been accepted well there. We were in conversation with Rintu da (artiste) for over a year. This pandal is a culmination of a year worth of thoughts, discussions, numerous plans and scratch sketches. It’s a very important theme that we tried to put across and I’m very happy people across the country and especially in Chandernagore have been talking about the same!”
Artist Gouranga Kulia believes the recent obsession with deep and overbearing themes alienates the lesser privileged section of the society who seek solace. The artist, who was behind Tridhara Sammilani’s grand pandal this year has, also been associated with Jagaddhatri Puja in Chandernagore for a long time. Helapukurdhar, a prominent baroari in Chandernagore, has brought in the same pandal for its 54th year of Jagaddhatri Puja, which is titled ‘Utsab’. The theme explores the joy of festivals where people from all backgrounds embrace and celebrate the light that pushes away the darkness around.
The Uttaranchal Jagaddhatri Puja
“I believe in celebrating art for what it’s worth. My art should fascinate everyone who walks into the pandal, without having to dig deep for a theme. I have been associated with Jagaddhatri Pujo in Chandernagore and Durga Puja for a long time, and the thought behind the same pandal in two different cities or towns is a question I have had to face from many prominent people. Art is to be experienced everywhere. To have the same pandal in different places gives a wider cross-section of people to access and experience it,” said Kulia.
A pioneer of reusability in this field, the process of removing pandal installations and not dismantling them completely have allowed Kulia to transport his art to a number of places with modifications based on spatial dimensions.
For Helapukurdhar in Chandernagore, walking an extra mile in grandeur and the related artistic vision is a primary objective that drives the pujo committee. “We have been in discussion with Gouranga Kuila for a long time. Our representatives visited Tridhara and we decided to mount the pandal with necessary modifications for pujo this year. The response here has been overwhelming like always with people flooding the pandal. With the vision of our patron, Ashit Das, the director of Morton Dairy, we have been able to come up with something new and grand for our pujo every year. We also have a dear friend and sponsor in Senco Gold and Diamonds who are behind the beautiful gold jewellery and shaj that drapes the Goddess. This year we celebrate the joy that festivals and lights bring,” said Grijaprasanna Ray, president, Helapukurdhar Jagaddhatri Pujo Committee.