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Durga Puja 2022

No entry without a dog for the first three days of puja at this north Kolkata pandal

Bidhan Sarani Atlas Club is hosting a pet-friendly puja

Brinda Sarkar | Published 09.09.22, 01:45 PM
A puja volunteer and his Labrador, posing before the banner

A puja volunteer and his Labrador, posing before the banner

This Puja, you no longer have to leave your dog home while going pandal-hopping. Well, at least not when you head to this one puja near Hatibagan. Bidhan Sarani Atlas Club is hosting a pet-friendly puja that will not just welcome furry pals but will also allow two-legged visitors in only if they are accompanied by a companion on four legs on the first three days of Puja!

“I have two dogs at home — a Labrador and an Indie — but wasn’t ever able to take them to any puja as they weren’t allowed. So when artiste Sayak Raj proposed a pet-friendly puja with a street dog theme, I could relate,” says joint secretary of the puja, Ritam Bhattacharya.


Raj says the idea struck him after a pilgrim visited the Kedarnath shrine earlier this year with his pet Husky and critics erupted, calling it disrespectful. “Why should that be so?” Raj asks. “Are animals not god’s creations? Shiva, whose temple one visits in Kedarnath, is known as Pashupati, meaning the lord of animals.”

The organisers are being lauded as well as panned. “Some people are calling it a gimmick. They say it will be chaotic to have dogs in a crowded pandal but we have thought it through,” says Raj.

The puja will open on Mahalaya and for the first three days — Pratipad, Dwitiya and Tritiya — visitors will gain entry into the pandal only if they are accompanied by dogs. “From Chaturthi to Ekadashi, it will be open to all but if pet owners want to come, they are to call up our helpline (that will be announced soon) half an hour before arriving so we can create a VIP route for them slightly away from the general queue, which might have visitors who are scared of dogs,” says Bhattacharya.

Besides their own volunteers, the puja is speaking to NGOs to send in reinforcements to help out. “They shall escort the pets from the car, if need be,” he continues.

The theme and the idol will be novel too. “There will be no Asura,” says Raj. “Instead, Durga will be seated and looking towards a nursing street-dog who would have walked up to her. A voiceover, on behalf of the bitch, would plead that just the way Durga loves her children, she too loves hers. She would be praying to the goddess for the puppies’ protection.”

The message is to arouse compassion among pandal-hoppers so they are not cruel to strays and avoid rash driving, a practice that regularly runs over litters. “The roads are their home. They should feel the safest there,” says Raj, revealing the theme as “ananta ashray”.

The pandal itself will use mixed media to create paintings and collages and depict mythological references to animals such as Pashupati, Dattatreya (the god shown surrounded by animals) and the episode from the Mahabharata where Yudhishthira is accompanied to heaven by a loyal dog.

“We shall use only natural products so that even if, by chance, a dog happens to chew something, it won’t harm him,” says Raj.

It’s the puja’s 39th year and their budget is Rs 5 lakh. “Our budget may not be exorbitant but we have made an impact,” smiles Bhattacharya. “Within a day of our announcing that we would be pet-friendly, we received over 5,000 likes on social media. And a highly established south Kolkata puja declared they would allow pets to their pandal too. This is all we wanted — an inclusive puja.”

Last updated on 09.09.22, 01:45 PM

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