Europe may appear to be in distress to many but it is alive and well in Kolkata.
Durga Puja this year has St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in all its grandeur, war-ravaged Ukraine with vignettes of the misery of the people there and a happy sprinkling of Unesco, which is headquartered in Paris.
There is a touch of Europe in a number of Kolkata neighbourhoods.
The pandal at Nazrul Park Unnayan Samity in Kestopur depicts a war-ravaged building in Ukraine. The pandal — made of wood, fabric and papiermâché — has walls that look like the concrete has been blasted away, exposing the framework.
The windows have been made to recreate those seen in bombed-out buildings and the jagged edges of the roof has several gaping holes. The building is flanked by two exposed staircases that lead to broken balconies where clothes hang. Visitors are first greeted by a giant spinal cord kept in front of a mural, resembling a man’s head that has been partially blown away.
The idol itself is minus conventional finery to depict the economic impact of the war.
An organiser of the puja said they wanted to bring people’s attention to the plight of those staying in Ukraine and how they are waging a war against a much more powerful adversary.
“Durga Puja is all about celebrating the triumph of good over evil. This year we decided to centre our theme around Ukraine as we wanted to honour them for fighting it out despite facing a powerful country like Russia and holding their ground,” said Biswajit Saha, one of the organisers.
The facade of the Kidderpore Sarbojanin pandal with wooden frames where the six letters of Unesco will be placed
At the 96-year-old Kidderpore Sarbojanin, the pandal has the Unesco logo built into it.
Two rallies and a felicitation have not exhausted the thankfulness the city feels for being accorded a place on the Unesco list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
“We were planning the 2022 pandal on 75 years of India’s Independence when the global recognition was announced last year. So we decided to celebrate the feather in our puja cap instead,” said assistant secretary Abhijeet Das.
The Unesco logo has been modelled after the Parthenon, the temple in Athens that is regarded as the finest example of Greek architecture.
“If you look at the logo, there are five gaps between the letters. We have planned the pandal in such a way that the idols are placed behind the gaps and are visible through it. Thus Ganesh stands between U and N, Lakshmi between Nand E, and so on,” Das said.
The idea to use the logo was the brainchild of treasurer Aniket Bardhan, who is also composing the theme music. “We wanted to do something to thank Unesco. Then it struck us that if their logo became a part of the pandal itself, that would be the most obvious way to express our feelings,” he said.
At every other big puja, the Unesco inscription is being referred to in various forms. The puja at Sreebhumi Sporting Club has constructed a replica of St Peter’s Basilicain Vatican City.
The structure is 92ft high and 54ft wide, utilising the entire available width of a field.
“We thought of bringing one of the iconic buildings of the world to life here. We zeroed in on St Peter’s Basilica as we wanted to set an example of communal harmony. We tried to replicate the original building as much as possible using images and videos from the internet,” Bose told The Telegraph.