Monday, 30th October 2017

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Durga triumphs with festive spirit

Tracing the pandals of Hatibagan-Shyambazar, Mudiali-Lake Market, and Gariahat-Golf Green

By Vedant Karia, Ravjit Singh and Anuran Sadhu in Calcutta
  • Published 4.10.19, 2:20 AM
  • Updated 4.10.19, 2:20 AM
  • 5 mins read
Lalabagan Nabankur Pictures by Rashbehari Das, Pabitra Das and B. Halder


A feeding room for nursing mothers, a blood bank and an eye check-up camp are among the laudable initiatives taken by pujas on this route.

Manicktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja Committee has decked out the boat-shaped pandal and idol in golden shades befitting royalty in keeping with its theme of Sonar Tori. The puja is a step ahead in ensuring True Spirit parameters too, with clean water for pandal hoppers to drink and a feeding room for nursing mothers. The puja also spares a thought for energy conservation by using solar power.

The use of reusable, fireproof and eco-friendly materials catches the eye at Alpha Athletic Association, Uttar Kolkata Sanhati Sporting Club, Lalabagan Nabankur and Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojanin Durgotsab.

Hatibagan Nabin Pally has gone a step further, with its theme woven around how human intervention such as deforestation and excessive use of pesticides affects the environment. The puja also handed over potted plants to residents of the locality. Shyambazar Palli Sangha urges pandal-hoppers to save water.

The theme of a pollution-free old Calcutta tram takes everyone on a nostalgic ride.

Kailash Bose Street Sarbojanin Durgotsav has doctors offering advice on heart and skin care at just Rs 10. Vivekananda Sarbojanin Durgatsab boasted a blood bank. The puja also held a pre-Puja eye check-up camp.

Thalassemia camps have been organised at Uttar Kolkata Sanhati Sporting Club and Hatibagan Nabin Pally.

The Brindaban Matri Mandir pandal is a plastic-free zone. The puja also gave scholarships worth Rs 2,10,000 to meritorious students from local schools.

It was heart-warming to note concern for the elderly with most pandals offering a comfortable seating area for senior citizens, along with wheelchair facilities. Lalabagan Nabankur and Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojanin Durgotsab, in particular, have taken special steps to make all corners of the pandal accessible to wheelchairs.

Lalabagan Nabankur has put up a signage outside the main entrance with emergency helplines listed.

Several pujas have shown enthusiasm for The Telegraph’s Santanan Dehi campaign, with Alpha Athletic Association putting up the banner near the entrance. Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojanin Durgotsab also contributed to the cause, organising recreational programmes for women and children from nearby slums.

Kalighat Nepal Bhattacharjee Street
Kalighat Nepal Bhattacharjee Street Pictures by Rashbehari Das, Pabitra Das and B. Halder


Panchami on Thursday saw pandal-hoppers in large numbers on the Mudiali-Lake Market route as puja organisers were busy with last-minute preparations.

The Interactive Club Of Chowringhee High School wants to promote women’s empowerment and lift the True Spirit of Durga Puja. The road to the pandal has clay models of women from various professions. Space constraint has been tackled with adequate number of entry and exit points. The safety of the pandal and the people inside has been taken care of by installing enough fire extinguishers, CCTV cameras, wheelchairs and a dedicated first-aid corner.

Bakul Bagan Sarbojanin Durgotsab Committee impressed us with their special endeavours in social work. The puja committee from Rajshekhar Bose Sarani has made enough arrangements to manage the crowd during rush hour and has facilities for the aged and the differently-abled.

But dustbins were few and there weren’t enough provision for drinking water. The toilet was far away from the pandal.

While Kalighat Sree Sangha has done justice to their theme of Shakti Aachhe Bhaktitey with creative decor on the triumph of good over evil, the puja missed out on important True Spirit parameters such as provision for drinking water and first aid. The club, celebrating its 25th anniversary, has ensured fire safety with a proper exit and placement of fire extinguishers.

66 Pally has the theme of festival and how Durga Puja is not merely a religious ritual but has opened doors to the state’s economic growth.

The branch-like structures made of artificial currency notes symbolising the growth of economy is striking but the puja organisers have failed to reach a few of the True Spirit goals such as availability of first aid, proper crowd management and CCTV cameras.

The pandal at Badamtala Ashar Sangha, decked out in wood, clothes, mirrors and conical speakers, had adequate fire extinguishers, proper crowd management facilities and wheelchairs. But there were only a few dustbins.

Kalighat Nepal Bhattacharjee Street ticked almost all boxes of CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja. The organisers have tackled the problem of unavailability of space in an eco-friendly manner, mostly using clay and bamboos. The pandal has scenes from Kumartuli taking people through the steps of making a Durga idol. The organisers have scored high with their social work initiatives, adequate fire safety measures and a well-equipped health kiosk.

Shibmandir Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samiti met almost all the True Spirit parameters. The Bandhan themed puja stresses the importance of brotherhood, represented by ropes. The puja organisers have maintained a no-plastic zone and there’s a feeding room.

There were adequate wheelchairs, fire extinguishers, a well-equipped health room and clean toilets for both men and women.

Lake Youth Corner has focused on the theme of mermaid with colourful nets as the key material to build the pandal. There were adequate fire extinguishers and CCTV cameras but no health kiosk or wheelchairs or any facility for the aged and the differently-abled.

Mudiali Club and Shibmandir Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samiti are neck and neck in the competition for the top spot on this route. A clean and well-equipped health kiosk, CCTV cameras and quick accessibility of wheelchairs and fire extinguishers are among the facilities on offer.

Fireproof clothes have been used in the pandals and both have power backup.

Hindustan Park
Hindustan Park Pictures by Rashbehari Das, Pabitra Das and B. Halder


Panchami falling on a weekday didn’t bother pandal-hoppers as they turned up in large numbers, keeping organisers on their toes while they were busy with last-minute preparations.

Most of the pandals on this route have paid extra attention to the needs of the aged and the differently abled as they have taken adequate steps to ensure an inclusive Durga Puja.

While three pandals had ambulances on standby, Ballygunge Cultural Association had on-site medical assistance.

The Jagari pandal, opposite Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan, has tied up with the hospital. Overall, most south Calcutta pandals showed True Spirit by ensuring that pandal-hopping is safe for everyone.

Adi Ballygunge Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity invited members of the LGBTQ community to paint a rainbow-coloured alpana. “To make the LGBTQ community feel respected and included and to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Section 377, we decided to invite members of the community to paint an alpana,” Dhiraj Mukherjee, assistant secretary of the Samity, said.

While they checked most of the True Spirit safety parameters with a fire-repellent pandal, ample space at entry/exit points and sufficient fire safety steps, their reckless use of styrofoam and other non-biodegradable materials made them score less on eco-friendly parameters.

Tridhara Akalbodhan has tried to spread awareness on women empowerment. The pandal, which has been seeing crowds since Tritiya, had massive installations with pictures of women that transformed to images of Durga when viewed at a particular angle. The pandal had good crowd control arrangements, adequate steps for medical assistance, ramps and wheelchairs for the differently abled and a separate AC room for nursing mothers and pregnant women.

Kakulia and Fern Road Sarodia Utsav
Kakulia and Fern Road Sarodia Utsav Pictures by Rashbehari Das, Pabitra Das and B. Halder

The use of biodegradable materials, proper waste management and designated toilets for men and women ensured a clean and environment-friendly puja .

The Hindusthan Park Sarbojanin Durgotsab Committee chose dance and performing arts as the pandal theme. The pandal has been made of wood and recycled cardboards with a glass fibre installation of classical dancers at the entrance and papier mache figurines doing Bharatanatyam mudras inside.

Despite using highly combustible materials, the pandal scored big on fire safety measures with four fire extinguishers at four corners inside and two, along with six buckets of sand, outside. There were no ramps or wheelchairs, though.

The lives and times of the Adivasi community is the theme of Gariahat Hindusthan Club Sarbojanin Durga Puja Committee. The pandal has decorations of leaves woven together and artwork related to the Adivasi culture. The idol reflected their sculpture. The total effect: an eco-friendly pandal and idol.

There were wide entry and exit points, ramps for the aged and the differently abled, and adequate waste management. Toilets and medical facilities were missing, though.

Golpark Students’ Association had two wheelchairs, help desks, nursing rooms, toilets and spacious entry and exit points. The organisers had done a fair share of social work throughout the year.

Subhas Nagar Samaj Kalyan Parisad’s theme is world peace, while Ballygunge Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity’s theme is motion picture.

Both pandals, however, fell short on the True Spirit meter. While the former lacked adequate crowd control measures and waste management facilities, the latter used environmentally hazardous materials such as tin foil, styrofoam and plastic in abundance.

At the Kakulia and Fern Road Sarodia Utsav, the boys of the locality have decorated the pandal themselves.

The pandal missed many True Spirit checks such as fire safety measures, ramps and emergency exits and provision for drinking water.