Durga takes off for Madrid varsity

For possibly the first time, a Durga puja idol from a community puja in Calcutta is being sent abroad not to be worshipped but to be exhibited in a prominent European university. The idol of Abasar Sarbojanin of Bhowanipore is taking flight on Friday for Madrid.

By Sudeshna Banerjee
  • Published 23.06.16
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The 2015 idol of Abasar Sarbojanin Durgotsab in Bhowanipore which will be unveiled next week in Spain

For possibly the first time, a Durga puja idol from a community puja in Calcutta is being sent abroad not to be worshipped but to be exhibited in a prominent European university. The idol of Abasar Sarbojanin of Bhowanipore is taking flight on Friday for Madrid.

"It will be unveiled as an installation next Thursday by the mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmena and the Indian high commissioner in Spain Vikram Misri. After a grand cultural ceremony at the Puerta de Toledo Hotel the idol will be shifted to the main wing of the Universidad Europea de Madrid which is open to visitors," said Jaydeep Mukherjee, director and president of Meghdutam Travels, who is arranging for the export of the idol. The university is one of the biggest private universities in the country.

Mukherjee had brought a 32-member team of travel agents, tour operators and journalists from various European countries to show around during the last Pujas. Fifteen of them were from Spain. "They went to Kumartuli to see idol-making, visited 18 pujas across the city and stayed back for the immersion. They were absolutely overwhelmed by the artistic grandeur and variety of our pandals, and asked me if they could take an idol to Spain," recalled Mukherjee.

"We expected Durga puja to be a popular celebration like the Falles we have in Valencia. But after coming to Calcutta it seemed the only way to enjoy Durga puja is by experiencing it, and we thought that bringing an idol can awaken the interests of future tourists to India," said Pablo Junquera, owner of TSGViajes, a destination management company from Spain which is coordinating the Spanish leg of the goddess's journey.

TSGViajes shortlisted three pujas they liked - Tallah Baroari, 41 Palli in Haridevpur and Abasar. "The 41 Palli pandal was very pretty but since the whole structure could not be transported, the Abasar idol was finally chosen," said Mukherjee.

Added Vilma Perez de la Coba, director of the firm's art communication, design and advertising wing, who had accompanied Junquera on the Calcutta tour: "We faced initial difficulties as the art centres we approached were ignorant about Durga puja. But with ample data supplied by Mukherjee, we managed to convince not one but three art centres. All three want an idol now."

Since this time only one idol is being transported, Mukherjee has decided to bring another Spanish group this Puja and offer the Centro Cultural de la Villa and Sala E07 two idols that this group will choose. "This is how awareness about Puja will escalate globally and more artists will get promoted," Mukherjee said.

Gauranga Kuilya, who was the theme-maker at Abasar, is travelling to Spain for the event. "This is a huge honour. I had crafted the idol with the hope that it will not get immersed. But I did not foresee a journey to Europe," he said.

"Who thought such a medium-budget puja as ours will get this distinction? Whenever there is talk of globalisation of Bengal's culture, our idol will be regarded as the face of Durga puja," smiled Shyamal Das, secretary of Abasar.