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Durga Puja

The best Durga Puja pandals in northeast Kolkata

The Telegraph tracks how the big-ticket structures are being set up to venerate the goddess in the neighbourhood are shaping up

Sudeshna Banerjee | Published 01.10.21, 11:04 AM
One of the 22 boats being built at Kestopur Prafulla Kanan.

One of the 22 boats being built at Kestopur Prafulla Kanan.

Sudeshna Banerjee

Kestopur Prafulla Kanan (Paschim) Adhibashibrinda

Year: 19th

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Budget: Rs 10 lakh

Theme: Alokbortika

Theme-maker: Swapan Chakraborty

The look: A village of fishermen devastated by Cyclone Yaas is being replicated on the premises of the Bagjola Sewage Treatment Plant. The idea came to the artist who is a local resident, when they went to distribute relief material in the Sunderbans. The arch at the entrance is of two boats. A couple of broken huts stand at a side, one of which is getting repaired by a figure. A big lotus-shaped boat stands next to it. Fishing nets lie askance. Figures of a mother and a daughter stand at a side having a conversation which can be heard through a hidden microphone, with the mother assuring the daughter that all will be well in the village with Devi Durga’s arrival.

The pandal with the goddess is open but for a floating cloud with a steel frame which seemingly floats in mid-air and which protects the idols from the elements. 

The water body behind the pandal has several lifesize wooden boats afloat. A machine is being rented to create artificial waves for a turbulent effect. They are being dragged ashore by chains to safety by the goddess herself who is modelled after a fisherwoman.

Dum Dum Park Bharat Chakra

Year: 21st

Budget: Rs 24 lakh

Theme: Hei samalo dhaan go

Theme-maker: Anirban

The look: The pandal is dedicated to farmers who feed the world but are a deprived lot. They have to rise in agitation again and again for their demands. The narrative encompasses a long line of rebellions in Bengal, from the late 18th century Sanyasi Revolt to the Tebhaga Movement of 1946-47. In current times, the reference is of course to the farmer’s agitation in Punjab and Telengana.

A visitor walks by a barricaded scene of a scattered agitation, with plastic bottles and slippers lying all around. There is a mix of 2D paintings and 3D live installation at several corners. In one, several fists are painted on a wall in which is held an actual sickle. Pasted to the branch of a painted tree is an actual noose, symbolising the farmers forced into suicide by unpaid dues.

The goddess, in the aspect of Mahalaxmi dressed as a farmer’s wife, sits across a larger than life paddy field where a visitor feels as puny as a rat, emphasising the importance of agricultural produce. The idol is left in its natural clay state, with just a hand-painted coat of natural turmeric paste, providing a matted look..

One of the asuras taking part in the churning of the sea at the pandal on the theme of samudramanthan.

One of the asuras taking part in the churning of the sea at the pandal on the theme of samudramanthan.

Sudesna Banerjee

Dum Dum Park Yubak Brinda

Year: 55th

Budget: Rs 6.5 lakh

Theme: Amriter Sandhane

Theme-maker: Rajesh Banerjee

The look: The pandal, rising to about 40ft, is shaped like Mt. Mandar which served as the churning rod during the churning of the sea in search of nectar. On its surface, some mantras have been etched in relief or created in shadow. The opposite walls have cute cut-outs of gods and demons in the act of churning. The figures are very colourful, being cut out of foam sheets.

The serpent Vasuki as the churning rope stretches in their hands on both sides. At the entrance are two sadhus who seem to be speaking. They are the narrators of the tale of samudramanthan. The outer pandal walls have sea-green effect while the interior has a cave-like texture. The goddess too has a likeness in style to the god and demon figures.

Sreebhumi

Year: 49th

Budget: Rs 1.5crore

Theme maker: Romeo Hazra

Theme: Burj Khalifa

The world’s tallest building is inspiring what must be the city’s tallest pandal this year. The idol of Sreebhumi Sporting Club will be housed in a structure that is rising to a height of 133ft. The Dubai citadel is 2,722 ft high. Hazra, the man in charge of the pandal, visited Dubai to get an idea of the original structure. The superstructure is being crafted out of the usual bamboo poles and plywood but will have an exterior of acrylic mirror to give it a steely look. Aluminium tubes are being stuck vertically to the edges to give an impression of a frame. As the visitors walk in, they will see themselves reflected on the mirror as there will be 15ft of glass on the outer wall from the base. Inside, foam and velvet cloth will be used in a combination of white and gold, with acrylic mirrors creating a golden effect.

Pradip Rudrapal’s gorgeous 21ft idol will be decked in gold ornaments.

 

Dum Dum Park Tarun Sangha

Year: 36th

Budget: Rs 12 lakh

Theme: Dinjaponer haalkhata

Theme-maker: Manas Das

The look: During the lockdown, when resources were scare, it was the neighbourhood grocer who kept us fed. The puja looks at his life, right from his shop to his home with the neighbourhood community hand pump and roadside temple. The adjoining water tank has been utilised in the theme by having a small artificial ghat incorporated into the pandal. Durga is seen as Annapurna who has arrived in the grocer’s home.

Kankurgachhi Mitali

Year: 85th

Budget: Rs 10 lakh

Theme: Kalponar kalpotaru

Theme-maker: Sandip Mukherjee

The look: The wish-fulfiling divine tree is what the pandal is. Its trunk is what the visitor sees at the centre while its branches spread out on both walls. Stalks of jute plants are being used in bunches, chopped in small sizes and the sides coloured in bright hues.

Dum Dum Park Sarbojanin

Year: 70th

Budget: Rs 6.5 lakh

Theme: Abonamon

Theme-maker: Krishanu Pal

The look: The pandal is the studio of an artist who came to the profession with dreams in his eyes but over the years the dream degenerated into despair. The interior of the pandal has various items found in studios like unfinished sculptures, easels, canvas, stool etc. The idol fits into the studio like a piece of sculpture.

Dum Dum Tarun Dal

Year: 44th

Budget: Rs 20 lakh

Theme: Laahe laahe (slowly in Assamese)

Theme-maker: Debatosh Kar

The look: The pandal will be largely open to view for pedestrians walking by. About half a dozen types of bamboo have been gathered from various parts of the state and beyond. For instance, while talta and jaaba came from Nadia, muli came from the Assam border. The pandal is a space where melody will win over the ungodly or the demonic. The theme-maker himself proposes to play his flute live in the bamboo citadel for visitors to enjoy. The 17ft goddess is imposing and stands like Vishnu, the Creator.

Beleghata 33 Palli

Year: 70th

Budget: Rs 35 lakh

Theme: Muktir Alindo

Theme-maker: Shibshankar Pal

The look: Life under lockdown has created havoc on day-to-day life. Empty almirahs, about 70 of them, stand with doors open. People’s savings have been wiped clean and they have nothing to keep secured under lock and key. Stacks of books stand in racks unread as education as gone online. Even books of fiction find no takers in libraries or book stalls. Silkscreen printing of book covers has been done on polished bricks, creating an effect of yellowing tomes. An offset machine stands at the centre of the pandal in a salute to the printing press which produces newspapers. The outer walls of the buildings on both sides of the lane have been pasted with newspapers as it was the media which kept readers informed about the world during the lockdown.

The goddess sits as if in a throne for household deities. But the four compartments to her sides are actually windows and verandah. While little Kartik and Ganesh are looking through grilles of windows, Laxmi and Saraswati, with neatly plaited long hair, stand in verandahs above them.

Telengabagan

Year: 56th

Budget: Rs 10 lakh

Theme: Ashwas

Theme-maker: Abhijit Ghatak

The look: An oxygen plant, which served so many in the Covid second wave, is being built.

Beleghata Sandhani

Year: 52nd

Budget: Rs 7 lakh

Theme: Antarin

Theme-maker: Bibhas Mukherjee

The look: Over 200 locks, made of fibre, bring out the reality of life under lockdown. The locks also serve as lampshades, having within its illuminated interiors mini clay figures of people in different professions, dhakis to maulvis, farmers to doctors, all in masks and all from Krishnanagar. The message is clear: if we stay masked and locked indoors, lives will be saved and so will livelihood.

Five columns of wooden wheels hang from the pandal roof, representing the cycle of life. From their midst, arrows are set to shower, their tips pointing at visitors below. Five weighing scales, hanging from the roof, symbolise how precariously in balance our lives are. The entry point of the sanctum sanctorum has a 15ft lock, leading to the goddess. Behind her, the shops have no Covid constraints as the goddess provides the biggest protection. Actual signboards have been drawn with names of imaginary shops, which are positioned next to the locks.

Kankurgachhi Yubak Brinda

Year: 91st

Budget: Rs 22 lakh

Theme: Jatra shuru

Theme-maker: Pradip Das

The look: The pandemic has dealt a huge blow to jatra performances. The pandal complex depicts a north Calcutta alley with a jatra booking office, a green room, and finally a dalanbari which seems to jut out of an actual old house behind the pandal. Mahishasura, the life-sized demon king, seems to be in multiple avatars, all frozen in theatrical poses.

Last updated on 04.10.21, 09:03 AM
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