The number of pujas has gone up. The idols have become bigger. Soirees are back.
In celebrating the god of prosperity, visible are the signs of recovery from the Covid-induced slump.
But is it as good as 2019? The jury is still out.
Around 350 Ganesh Puja pandals have come up in the city this year, according to police.
The actual number would be more, said officers.
In 2020 and 2021, the number was below 100, because of the pandemic. In the pujas that were held in 2020 and 2021, the celebrations were muted.
The sprawling pandals and the size of the idols had shrunk substantially.
This year, many organisers said the budget of the pujas had gone up. But it was still short of pre-pandemic times, they said.
In terms of business, the spectre of economic slowdown — triggered mainly by demonetisation — was looming large in 2019. But collecting money was easier in 2019 than it is in 2022, several organisers said.
The puja organised by the Gariahat Indira Hawkers’ Union, at the Gariahat intersection in south Kolkata, is in its 14th year. The union has over 2,000 members.
Donations from hawkers and stores are the main source of money.
“The last two years have been extremely tough for hawkers. It was a question of survival. We hardly collected any money,” said Debraj Ghosh, general secretary of the union.
The usual budget of the puja is close to Rs 5 lakh. But for the past two years, it had come down to less than Rs 50,000, he said.
This year, the budget is over Rs 3.5 lakh, he said. Also back will be a soiree on September 1, featuring artistes from West Bengal and Mumbai.
The last time a musical programme was held at the puja was in 2019, the organisers said.
Most Ganesh pujas in the city depend on donations from traders and small businesses in the area. But since profits saw a slump across businesses because of Covid, donations have dried up.
In Kasba, the P Majumdar Bridge Indu Park Garden Committee’s puja is known for lavish celebrations. In 2020 and 2021, the puja was held inside a club with a miniature idol, around 2.5ft high.
This year, the puja is back to a pandal. The idol is around 10ft high. But compared to 2018 and 2019, “our budget is slashed”, said the organisers.
The puja organised by Ganapati Bhakt Mandal in Bhowanipore had a budget of around “Rs 1.5 lakh” before the pandemic.
This time, it is around Rs 75,000, said chief patron Gopi Thakker. Thakker is a businessman who supplies linen to hotels.
“The hotel industry has still not reached the pre-pandemic levels,” he said.
Salt Lake Matri Sangha, which organises a Ganesh Puja in CF Block, used to get Bollywood actors and singers to perform at their event.
The jamboree had been absent for the past two years. This year, the club has decided to organise two cultural programmes.
Though the organisers said the scale of celebrations had not yet reached the pre-pandemic levels, the police said the number of pujas had gone up from 2019.
“Around 350 pandals have been erected across the city this time, compared to 320 in 2019,” said an officer at Lalbazar.
CESC received 117 applications for power connections to Ganesh puja pandals this year, said a spokesperson.
“In 2019, the number was 140. But in 2020 and 201, it was 12 and 58, respectively.”