The priest chants mantras during BB Block’s khuti pujaPicture by Shatadipa Bhattacharya
You surely remember the golden jubilee celebrations at Sreebhumi last year. Well, this year a Salt Lake puja turns 50 and if the excitement at their khuti puja was anything to go by, BB Block is preparing a gala bash too.
In 2020, Vidyasagar Niketan had celebrated its golden jubilee but festivities were muted as it was during the pandemic. But BB Block has no holds barred.
“We are planning to celebrate Durga puja on a much larger scale this year,” said secretary of BB Block residents’ association, Sudipto Dey. “While we usually hold the puja in our community hall, we are shifting to BB-BC Park this time so we have more space. The theme is pata chitra. The budget has also got hiked from Rs 12-14 lakh to Rs 35 lakh and the celebrations will continue even after the Pujas, with a cultural performance being planned in December.”
Thememaker Tarun Ghosh didn’t want to reveal details yet but shared his excitement about working on his first project in Salt Lake. “The patachitra art form is fading away and this is a chance to revive it. We have connected with 12 patachitra artists who would be coming next month to start work here. We will also be using items like burnt clay and mats in the pandal,” he said.
MLA and minister Sujit Bose and councillor Ratna Bhaumik joined the residents for the khuti puja. “I recently shifted my MLA office from BB to BC Block, but this neighbourhood remains close to my heart,” said Bose. “I know the significance of touching the 50-year milestone as my own puja Sreebhumi crossed it last year. I hope this puja attracts a lot of visitors and that it recreates a vibrant Maddox Square-like atmosphere.”
The block’s ladies wing was excited to begin preparations of cultural programmes. “The beauty of this block is how everyone gets involved in the activities wholeheartedly,” said a resident Gitali Lahiri. “And for this we look up to Gauri Chakraborty, who has been handling cultural activities for years. She involves everyone, on and off stage. We shall start work now.”
Women of AE (Part 1) pose with the sacred pole last Sunday
In its 40th year of puja, AE (Part 1) will pay tribute to freedom fighters of Bengal. The theme was announced on Sunday at their khuti puja that was attended by MLA and minister Sujit Bose and mayor Krishna Chakraborty among others.
“The puja will recount the sacrifices of iconic revolutionaries like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Masterda Surya Sen and Matangini Hazra as well as lesser-known martyrs whose stories are lost in the passage of time,” said Partha, who along with Siddhartha Ghosh, are designing the pandal. The theme will be brought alive through paintings, sculptures and installations. The artistic idol will be sculpted by Krishanu Pal.
“AE (Part 1) is one of the most famous pujas and I’m happy I could join them for their khuti puja. I hope all come to see the festivities here,” said Bose.
The organisers are counting the days till Tritiya, which is when the puja will be inaugurated. “Last year we had footfall of 15-20,000 a day,” said puja co-ordinator Supriyo Chakraborty. “It only helps that we are located so close to the Sreebhumi puja. People have been coming to see our pandal, parking their cars around the footbridge and walking over to the see Sujit da’s puja (Sujit Bose is the president of Sreebhumi puja).
Since last year, the puja has been inaugurated as early as on Tritiya. “This change was prompted by pandal-hoppers starting their visits early. By doing so, even those who leave town for holidays during the final puja days can now experience our pandal beforehand,” explained president of the block committee, Prabal De. “Plus, the judging of puja competitions also gets scheduled very early these days.”
Minister and MLA Sujit Bose (in white) holds the khuti at GD Block’s puja
The attendance at GD Block’s khuti puja this year may have been modest as it was on a weekday but the block had to stick to tradition. “We always perform khuti puja on the day of Ultarath,” said Nayan Ranjan Dey, vice-president of GD Block Residents’ Association.
Even if some residents were at office or school, the chief guests presided the ceremony. Minister and MLA Sujit Bose, mayor Krishna Chakraborty and councillor Ranjan Poddar were in attendance.
The theme this year will be women’s empowerment. Artiste Malay Das believes that a man’s silent support is needed for women to excel and so the pandal will be shaped like a Shivalinga, Shiva representing men. The 15-ft tall edifice will have sculptures of women’s empowerment. “The idol too will be an artistic one showing a peaceful but strong side of Durga,” said Das.
Pujas held in the last few years have been erratic and low key. Due to the pandemic we did not charge subscription from residents in one year, in another we slashed the rate by half. The community lunch, that brings residents together, had to be cancelled. Now that we have put the pandemic behind us all are happy to contribute. We are expecting a gala celebration this October,” said Dey.
Actress Ushasie Chakraborty (left) at the khuti puja in AJ Block
Not only will AJ Block’s puja be themed around bamboo and wicker baskets this year, but their pandal will also be shaped like a jhuri. The theme was announced at their khuti puja on July 1.
“We wanted the theme to be innovative but also one that promotes the eco-friendly cause,” says AJ Block’s puja secretary Moinak Dutta. “Our artistes suggested this concept and we picked it up. Our block has been doing theme pujas since 2009 and is on the pandal-hopping map of visitors from all over.”
Artistes Amit-Arindam added that the jhuri-shaped pandal will have several deities — three or four feet high — crafted with bamboo and baskets too.
The khuti puja was attended by actress Ushasie Chakraborty and mayor Krishna Chakraborty. Ushasie, who gained popularity as the scheming ‘June aunty’ in the TV serial Sreemoyee, was requested to mouth her dialogues by fans but she shared her experience instead. “It wouldn’t be appropriate to deliver negative lines at such an auspicious occasion. People think I’m as wicked as the character in real life,” she laughed.
While the actress usually leaves town for a holiday during the pujas it is never before Ashtami. “So I shall try to come visit AJ Block’s puja this time. Pujas in Salt Lake seem to have a homely feel that I enjoy,” said Ushasie.
Besides khuti puja, AJ Block’s puja committee has planned some more activities to the build up to the festival. “We shall hold a pre-puja fair selling clothes, jewellery, food and the like and shall encourage women entrepreneurs from our block and beyond here,” said the puja’s media convenor Swarnali Datta. “And we shall also host a corporate football tournament that will help as a fund raiser.”