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Durga Puja

Top pujas around us

Let's tour the neighbourhood to check out the most creative pandals

Sudeshna Banerjee | Published 13.10.23, 10:25 AM

LAKE TOWN AREA

Sreebhumi Sporting Club

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Year: 51st

Theme: Disneyland of Paris.

Theme-maker: Romio Hazra

Budget: Undisclosed

The look: A dream destination of children and children at heart will come alive at eastern Calcutta’s biggest crowd-pulling puja. There are 11 towers awash in pink, white and lavender. Two chariots, one carrying a mermaid emerging out of an oyster and another carrying a cute giant tortoise and its friends, welcome guests. There are 10 Disney characters, about eight feet in height, which stand along the walls in the pandal complex. The lighting will be a big draw, the organisers say. Actress Vidya Balan is expected on Mahalaya and football legend Ronaldinho on October 16.

The look: A dream destination of children and children at heart will come alive at eastern Calcutta’s biggest crowd-pulling puja. There are 11 towers awash in pink, white and lavender. Two chariots, one carrying a mermaid emerging out of an oyster and another carrying a cute giant tortoise and its friends, welcome guests. There are 10 Disney characters, about eight feet in height, which stand along the walls in the pandal complex. The lighting will be a big draw, the organisers say. Actress Vidya Balan is expected on Mahalaya and football legend Ronaldinho on October 16.

Lake Town Adhibasibrinda

Year: 61st

Theme: Riddhi.

Theme-maker: Prasanta Pal

Budget: Rs 22 lakh

The look: One gets a glimpse of Navaratri decorations in a Rajasthan village on stepping into the pandal. Walking in under a khatiya-like weave of chords, one sees specimens of drawings on clay pots and patterns woven in colourful strings. The use of calcareous soil and red soil powder is influenced by mandana art, as is the use of cow dung, used in a treated form to avoid odour. The idol has 18 hands, influenced by the iconography of the Mother Goddess in north India. Laxmi and Saraswati too have four hands each.

Organiserspeak: “These drawings are done to please gods and to welcome guests. Everything is hand-woven,” said member Dibyendu Das.

Pradeep Sangha, Notun Palli

Year: 43rd

Budget: Rs 8 lakh

Theme: Goli.

Theme-maker: Rama Das

The look: Separations of tin sheds have been used to create four alleys which lead to the goddess. One alley has an old-world charm having a building with a hanging verandah and a tea stall. This is a world where connections among people are intact. The other alleys are lined by faceless apartments as old-timers sell off old houses and move out. The idol is placed in a thakurdalan.

Dakshindari Youths

Year: 23rd

Budget: Rs 35 lakh

Theme: Japon katha

Theme-maker: Anirban Das

The look: The puja, in a lane to the left of VIP Road immediately after crossing the Ultadanga bridge,is surely the year’s astonishment in east Calcutta. It is a toast to the area with a tradition in clay craft and deserves to be visited both by day and night. Potter’s wheels, die casts,earthen lamps, heaps of damaged clay cups dot the field. The area’s name is cut out of an iron sheet and glows at night, visible from afar. Creative illumination by cinematographer Premendu Bikash Chaki has added drama and mystery to the panda field. The idol is off-beat, being inspired by a school of doll-making in clay called Diwali putul. Behind her is Shiva, with her face being the figure’s façade and his face the back of her head. The figure thus is finished from all sides and can be taken a round of. Behind the idol’s circular platform is a structure housing hundreds of clay figurines, from deities to animal figures and motifs on shelves. Like the idol, they too are left in the original clay state. This creates a soothing monochromatic effect with a play of light and semi-darkness at night.

Artistespeak: “Dakshindari is known for all three types of clay manufacturing — using potter’s wheel, using fingers to knead dolls intoshape and using die cast.

“Demand is on the wane for clay products and many in the trade are leaving the profession and the area. The theme is an ode to the area’s tradition and history. I have chosen to craft the idol inspired by Diwali putul as its base from the waist down uses the potter’s wheel, the upper body is shaped by fingers and the face is cast, using all three methods practised in the area. There is also a tradition of making Manasa ghot here and a lady potter has even got a President’s Award. So the divine children are symbolised in Manasa ghot,” says Anirban.

ULTADANGA AREA

Bidhan Sangha

Year: 55th

Budget: Rs 25 lakh

Theme: Du Mutho Chaal.

Theme-maker: Moloy-Subhamoy

The look: A boiling handi of rice, with murals on its surface, greets the visitor. Inside paddy has been grown extensively and the field is green with waist-high crop. Huts of farmers stand atop clay hillocks. Some line the field at a distance. Some hillocks behind the goddess are barren with cracks in the clay. On some others, the crop has been collected and the stubble stands, set in a pattern. A full granary stands at a side. The idol is a kindly mother who carries little Ganesh in the crook of her folded arms.

Artistespeak: “Only the mother and the farmer know the worth of two fistfuls of rice. Food is the target of our daily struggle for survival and was the cause triggering every strife in history. Had food been too plentiful or too scarce, money would have lost its value. All mothers pray to the goddess for a plateful of food, just as farmers pray for a full granary,” said Moloy Ray of the Moloy-Subhamoy duo.

Telengabagan

Year: 58th

Budget: Rs 25 lakh

Theme: Prantojoner atmakathan.

Theme-maker: Gopal Poddar

The look: A huge choudol or choturdola, an integral component of the folk festival of tusu, rises from above the pandal to a height of 20ft. Over 200 choudols of various sizes, decorated with colour paper, dot the pandal. An integral décor is another paper product, the humble thonga, or paper bags. The pandal surface comprises rows of thongas, some monotone and others made of newspaper. Some others are folded in a conical way, like jhalmuri thongas. Many animal and bird motifs, crafted out of folded magazine pages, hang from a circular network of bamboo poles that stand in the middle of the pandal in a riot of colours.

Artistespeak: “This area is known for paper bag production. So many we spoke to said the meagre amount earned by making thongas and saved over years helped them marry off their daughter or buy an electronic appliance. As for tusu, it is a festival celebrated over the month of Poush in the tribal belt from Bankura and Purulia to Jharkhand. On Poush Sankranti, the tusu figure is taken in a choudola to a waterbody nearby for immersion,” said theme-maker Gopal Poddar.

Sangrami

Where: Bagmari Road (under the Ultadanga flyover)

Year: 61st

Budget: Rs 11 lakh

Theme: Mahalilay Mahamaya.

Theme-maker: Kalachand Panja

The look: The pandal depicts Raslila in Vrindavan. Panels in the first chamber show gopinis worshipping Devi Katyayani on the banks of the Yamuna and seeking a boon to have Krishna as their consort. The panchatatva figures of Chaitanya Dev and others are etched in relief on the wall. A Radha-Krishna figure stands under a tree in the second chamber.

DUM DUM PARK AREA

Bharat Chakra

Year: 23rd

Budget: Rs 40 lakh

Theme: Bhranti

Theme-maker: Anirban Das

The look: String puppets deliver the message here. At the entry point, figures bearing masks of Kali, Shiva, Ganesh and other gods are pulling the strings of human figures as puppets. But in the pandal, it appears that man in his conceit has started believing that he is doing the opposite. The 10ft idol itself is a string puppet hanging in the air. Two figures sit on either side — one is a king and the other a priest. The strings are in their hands which they pull alternately, making the legs of the idol move. A song warns them on the sound system: Kon bhromete roila moje tumi ajibon. The last line, Raja tor bichar hobe, is telling. The pandal, in hay, looks like the crown of Hirak Raja in Satyajit Ray’s film. All around, there are paintings depicting slices of a king’s vain life of luxury and oppression.

Artistespeak: “We are like string puppets in the hands of Nature. But we are so conceited that we believe it is we who are controlling the world. We try to control the gods by paying bribes, the size of which becomes greater with the increase in our status. The pandal is a wake-up call,” said Anirban.

Tarun Sangha

Year: 38th

Budget: Rs 30 lakh

Theme: Samparka.

Theme-maker: Manas Das

The look: The outline of a family of three is placed above the entrance. The pandal shows the relation between man, nature and god. Every component of the decor, from surki (brickbats) to jute and dried palm leaves, is natural. In front of the idol, there is a waterbody in which water pours from clay pitchers overhead. The water is pumped in from and flows back to Tank no. 3 which is adjacent to the pandal. Four boats, created in Balagarh, are docked in the water. Subrata Mridha’s idol is seated, battling with the demon on one side and keeping her children away from harm on the other side.

Organiserspeak: “Each element has a cyclical story. These boats bring clay to Kumartuli, deliver idols to the far-off villages and carry them mid-water for immersion. Similarly, the pitchers store drinking water in life and carry one’s ashes after death,” says joint secretary Sayantan Kanjilal.

Dum Dum Park Sarbojanin

Year: 72nd

Budget: Rs 22 lakh

Theme: Ekotro

Theme-maker: Dhiman Sutar

The look: A chain of human hands stands at the entry of the pandal, like a bird with its wings spread. As the chain rises, the hands become disconnected. Inside the pandal, a tower stands, on top of which a room with two figures can be seen busy on their mobile. If there is a disconnect among family members, the bonds between neighbours are also getting snapped. All around the pandal complex, structures resembling multi-storeyed houses stand atop a platform of bamboo poles, reminiscent of the changes taking place in every old neighbourhood with old familiar neighbours moving out and their houses being demolished.

Yubak Brinda

Year: 57th

Budget: Rs 18 lakh

Theme: Srishtir bharsamyo

Theme-maker: Sudip Saha

The look: A baby in a womb in relief adorns the wall opposite the deity. The pandal itself symbolises a womb. Outside, figures from The Ramayana appear on the wall, as depicted in various temples of Indonesia. The concise story of the epic appears on a huge faux rock face at the entrance. A replica of the river Ayung, the longest river flowing through Bali, has been created. The main ingredients are coir, wood pulp and plaster of Paris.

Artistespeak: “The fact that a Muslim-majority country has such a deep cultural connect with a Hindu epic is an example of balance that Creation needs,” says Sudip Saha, an artiste from the locality who has devised the plan.

Dumdum Tarun Dal

Year: 46th

Budget: Rs 50 lakh

Theme: Kalbela.

Theme-maker: Pradip Das

The look: A mini submarine replica hangs overhead as visitors enter a pandal greeted by a Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose illustration. There are several exhibits that acquaint one with the great leader’s exploits abroad — a currency note proclaiming India as an independent republic, stamps of Azad Hind Fouj, a copy of his passport, a replica of his letter of resignation from the ICS and several others… The pandal then moves on to pay tribute to the women members of the army, the Rani of Jhansi regiment, with a gallery of their portraits. Other than the submarine, there are exhibits related to other modes of transport that linked to key moments like the car in which he made the great escape and a boat in which he was transferred from a German submarine to a Japanese one with his aides. Station names of all his stops during his foreign sojourn are lined up along the way. A huge wooden comb which is partly a revolver hangs next to the deity. Two kings from a pack of cards stand on either side of the asura, reminding one of King George V who ruled during that period and whom Netaji and his soldiers fought to vanquish. Backpacks of soldiers, some in rusted tin and some in plywood, hang from the pandal wall. There are also some bound books, which are open at pages with gaps shaped like revolvers. Such devices were used by freedom-fighters to pass on small firearms. A 70ft high portrait of Netaji has been painted on a house about 50 ft away from the pandal spot, extending the view beyond the walls.

BAGUIATI-KESTOPUR AREA

Kestopur Prafullakanan (West) Adhibashibrinda

Where: Inside Bagjola Sewage Treatment Plant complex

Year: 21st

Budget: Rs 17 lakh

Theme: Subho Bijoya.

Theme-maker: Dipanjan Dey

The look: A 45ft boat stands inside the pandal with its central part sliced off. Eight boats are placed there in the gap, like the petals of a lotus. At the centre where the boats converge, two motorised oars are placed which would be rowing alternately. These would be the positive and negative urges in human nature. The goddess is herself placed under a 28ft long boat.

Artistespeak: “Dashami is actually the day to celebrate when the goddess vanquishes the six instincts symbolised in the demon. The sailer sets sail with dreams but often is overcome by misfortune, just as in life,” says Dipanjan Dey.

Dakshinpara Durgotsab Committee

Year: 63rd

Budget: Rs 35 lakh

Theme: Alapan.

Theme-maker: Debashish Barui The look: The pandal is a zone of introspection and conversation with self. It is shaped like the top of a conchshell. There are four concentric circles overhead, the smallest being 24 ft in diameter and the biggest of 40ft diameter. Every wheel is motorised and will rotate in a direction opposite to the nearest one. The inner walls are dotted with alcoves in each of which a panchapradip is placed. They too will move as during an arati. Jellyfish-like creatures hang at waist-high height and its tentacles sway.

Ashwininagar Bandhu Mahal

Year: 43rd

Budget: Rs 30 lakh

Theme: Zoomorphism.

Theme-maker: Samrat Bhattacharya

The look: Hindu mythology is full of references to beings that are half-animal or bird and half-human in form. Thus there are heads of various animals like elephant and horse and zoomorphous creatures like Ganesha and Nrisingha on the pandal walls. A huge statue of Jatayu, the valiant bird-manwarrior who tries to resist Ravana and save Sita in The Ramayana, spreads its damaged wings above the Baguiati pandal in a gesture of protection.

KANKURGACHHI-BELEGHATA AREA

Mitali

Year: 87th

Theme: Ichche.

Theme-maker: Prasanta Pal

The look: One has to visit the pandal to see how aesthetically something as humble as worn saris can be used. Close to 6,000 second-hand saris have been used to decorate a zamindar mansion, either by pasting them in a wrinkled form or by creating shapes in relief like peacocks and fairies. A lion stands at the top of the façade while framed portraits are put up by the entry. The Shiva-Parvati idol is seated with an elaborate chalchitra of Dasamahavidya, again using sari pieces, forming a beautiful backdrop. Only the chandelier uses saris in slightly better condition.

Artistespeak: “The saris have been sourced from the second-hand allnight clothes market in front of Liberty cinema. The theme assumes that sellers of such humble products aspire that their ware would one day adorn something as grand as a Durga puja pandal. Since it is a dream, in a surrealistic touch most elements inside the pandal, like the decorative pillars, are kept hanging,” said Prasanta Pal.

Swapnar Bagan

Year: 70th

Theme: Chhatrachhaya.

Theme-maker: Pritam Das

The look: The father, who forms a shade of protection over the child, is the central figure here. A series of figures in silhouette shows his journey from bending to pick up a child, walking with him holding his hand to walking alone at the end with a stick, bent double. A parallel journey is that on trains and buses, represented here through signboards of rail stations and big replicas of bus tickets. Sayan Pakhira’s idol is seated in a chariot.

Kankurgachhi Yubakbrinda

Year: 94th

Budget: Rs 50 lakh

Theme: Sampraday.

Theme-maker: Abhijit Ghatak

The look: The area looks like a milkmen’s colony which it originally was, being still called Goalpara. A hut with tiles on the roof has been incorporated in the pandal, by building a similar hut with a roof at a lower height. Similarly a two-storeyed house has blended into the pandal which looks like a building of a similar height. An iron sheet at a far corner chronicles important developments in the area like the inception of the puja in 1930 in a period of communal tension. Cowdung cakes have been pasted on walls opposite to Top pujas near us Ultadanga Bidhan Sangha Ultadanga Sangrami Lake Town Adhibasibrinda Pradeep Sangha, Notun Palli Dum Dum Park Bharat Chakra Dum Dum Park Yubak Brinda Dum Dum Tarun Dal Beleghata 33 Palli Swapnar Bagan, Kankurgachhi Kestopur Prafullakanon which container stand with cowfeed. At a level above, cycles are parked at a stand.

Artistespeak: “I noticed men with milk cans attached to their cycles on the first day when I met the club members. On learning of the area’s history, I decided to make that the theme. Even now, the majority are involved in milk trade,” said Abhijit Ghatak.

Beleghata 33 Palli

Year: 23rd

Budget: Rs 40 lakh

Theme: Soilarti.

Theme-maker: Subrata Banerjee

The look: The façade is a face contorted in a grimace and arms are outstretched in the posture of one about to fall headlong. This is the cry of the mountains under pressure of mindless development. This takes up the 50-ft width of the pandal, creating a lasting impression. Inside, icicles hang from the roof and a chunk of ice is about to fall off. Organiserspeak: “The tunnels that we are creating through hills multi-storeyed structures coming up on slopes of hills are recipes of disaster as seen in the natural calamities all around us,” said secretary SushantaSaha.

Last updated on 13.10.23, 10:25 AM
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