Themes and safety standards - Charm, warmth and devotion mark the pandals, but some lack the facilities to tackle emergencies. Metro runs a check...

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 19.10.07
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Chakraberia Sarbojanin

Thakurpukur-Haridevpur

Rustic beauty, scenes from ancient civilisations, soothing music and politeness add charm to the pujas here.

Thakurpukur Club Puja Committee was inspired by baul philosophy. Puja committee member Ashit Thakurta said: “There is no place for communal disharmony and fundamentalism among the bauls. So, our Durga holds lotuses instead of weapons. She is a guruma and the mahishasura her shishya.” The hay used for decoration has been treated with fire-retardant chemicals.

Sal leaves have been used at Vivekananda Sporting Club to illustrate the history of books. The use of natural products won them points, but there was no dustbin and the area was littered with plastic.

Sadhana Sangha

Meye belar saathi nanir putul smriti” — the theme at Vivekananda Park Athletic Club is depicted artistically. Even the backs of the idols have been done up to perfection.

Naskarpara Palli Unnayan Samity has paddy fields around the pandal, but no helpdesk or first-aid counter. There is more village touch at Sodepur Sarbojanin Durgotsav and Amar Dip Sangha.

At Amar Dip Sangha, the emergency numbers are written in big bold letters, but the first-aid counter and the emergency exits have been given a miss.

In a break from rural India, Ajeya Sanghati drew ideas from Mughal architecture. The best of the lot seems 41 Palli Sarbojanin Durgotsav. With social awareness on global warming, fire-hazard protection and emergency lighting backup, there is little to complain about the arrangements. The theme is Inca civilisation.

Ajeya Sanghati

Rashbehari Avenue- Lake Market

The star of this leg is last year’s five-star winner, Mudiali Club. From ambulance, drinking water and toilets to solar lights for emergencies, closed-circuit television cameras and trained nurses, the club has covered all bases.

So has Kalighat Milan Sangha, which showcases the evolution of man. The otherwise claustrophobic passage to the pandal has emergency exits along the way. The club has utilised last year’s prize money to start classes for local children and has undertaken youth development programmes throughout the year.

Smaller pujas, like Sadhana Sangha, near Hazra, show that rules can be followed even if there is a shortage of space. Pujas with history, such as Ballygunge Cultural and Samaj Sebi Sangha, hold their own against the competition.

Some pujas, like Tollygunge Adi Baroari Durgotsab Committee, show scant regard for the True Spirit guidelines, not providing for even basic amenities like drinking water and toilet.

Pathuriaghata

The Saptami morning downpour hit Parasar Nabadaya Sangha, which has used cane baskets of different sizes for decoration, and Bengal United Club, which has created a tribal village with clay.

Bhowanipore-Kalighat

22 Palli is a safe, meaningful and happy Puja. With a dedicated power connection, circuit-breakers, a Sulabh International toilet, mineral water dispenser, water-based and chemical-based fire extinguishers, three exits, four closed-circuit television cameras and four walkie-talkies, the puja is prepared for every situation.

“We brought 45,000 earthen pots from the Sunderbans to make the pandal,” said Arun Chatterjee, a member of the puja committee.

Chakraberia Sarbojanin’s terracotta and mud pandal is stifling. Fire extinguishers, a helpdesk, an easily visible list of emergency numbers, first-aid facility and a trained nurse earned points for the puja.

Mudiali

Student’s Club loses out for not having a switch to cut power supply in case of an emergency. The Kedarnath-Badrinath theme pandal of 75 Palli Sarbojanin is well-protected against fire with fire extinguishers, sandbags and water drums. The members have been trained in basic fire-fighting.

Another puja that takes fire safety seriously is 76 Palli. Its pandal, made of 40,000 cane baskets, has been sprayed with a fire-retardant chemical. There are four fire extinguishers, a closed-circuit television camera and drinking water and first-aid facilities.

Abasar Sarbojanin’s clay-and-bamboo pandal, with its golden bells, is pretty and safe. There are circuit-breakers for electrical hazards and four security personnel and 45 volunteers to manage the crowd.

Forward Club, inspired by Kalighat pats and other forms of Bengal art, disappoints with its lack of facilities for waste management and drinking water.

Lake Palli Sarbojanin

Dhakuria-Santoshpur

The majority of the pujas in this area present a blend of aesthetic excellence and attention to detail.

Avenue South Pallymangal Samity had clean toilets, a first-aid section, a water purifier and excellent power arrangement. Apart from the standard fire- safety arrangements, the committee has procured pipes to draw water from a nearby pond.

Lake Palli Sarbojanin, which has chosen Sarada Ma as the theme, takes the visitors through a tunnel to the peace of a shrine. The facilities are scattered.

Sahidnagar Sarbojanin, which won a three-star last year, has permanent toilets, drinking water facility and a list of emergency numbers. The club that holds the puja concentrates on community service.

76 Pally

At Dakshin Purba Sarbojanin, the first-aid box could not be found and the toilets were bad. Green Avenue Friend’s Recreation Club suffers from the same problem. There are signs to indicate the ladies’ toilet, but it was not fit for use. The theme of aquarium (the pandal is shaped like one and there are ornamental fishes on display) had been chosen keeping the kids in mind, but the deity in a mermaid avatar doesn’t impress.

As far as community service is concerned, all committees claimed that they help the poor, destitute and the handicapped.

Pathuriaghata-Ahiritola

Pathuriaghata 5 Pally has followed the guidelines and even has a generator. The pandal uses throwaway material like coconut coir, pine cone, dried betel nut and hogpalm’s pit (amrar aanti). Scores of birds made with the same material hang inside the open-air structure (a problem if it rains). All this is treated with fire resistant chemical.

Avenue South Pallymangal Samity

Keeping up the green spirit, the puja organised by the Interact Club of Chowringee High School has global warming as its theme. The entire puja has been organised by students.

Ahiritola Sarbojanin has Rajasthani minakari work on the pandal walls. The goddess is traditional. Sishu Sangha, on BK Pal Avenue, uses thread-work on pillows, mattresses and cushions to depict scenes from the Ramayana. There are doubts about the fire safety, though.

Mechhuabazar Sarbojanin, in Burrabazar, has the life of fishermen as its theme. Dolphins and reclining mermaids by artist Manmohan Mahapatra line the entrance. The goddess is an ancient sculpture in a cave, decorated with plastic balls in fishing nets. This pandal and Pathuriaghata are among the few insured pandals.

Darpanarayan Tagore Street Sarbojanin has depicted the five states of matter in five sections. The dim lights and narrow entrance pose dangers.

Kedar Bhattacharya Lane, Howrah

Shortage of space affected most pandals here.

Howrah

Crafts of Bengal are showcased in the township pujas. From wooden dolls of Burdwan at Alapani Sangha, in Salkia, to jute and bamboo masks from West Dinajpur at Ramakrishna Athletic Club, the attempt is to return to the simplicity of village life.

Kamardanga Sitalatala Baroari in Santragachhi, referred to as aguner pandal, depicts the goddess in the rage that brought about the destruction of evil. Brahma and Vishnu recline near the entrance, with Maheshwar looming above. The rage of the three gods is believed to have created Durga.

With plenty of open space, the puja follows the True Spirit guidelines closely.

Nimtala Sarbojanin

Arupara Sarbojanin, near Milan Sangha maidan, shows the impact of indiscriminate construction and industries encroaching on residential area. Using chemical fertilisers, the organisers have grown miniature crop in a month and a half.

Chhau masks glare down at visitors at Shibpur Sashthitala Baroari. Extensive decoration within a small space makes the pandal vulnerable to fire.

The situation is the same at Santragachhi Kalpataru Sangha Sporting, which recreates the presence of the labourer in the city.

There’s an enormous hand-pulled cart at the entrance, with simulations of one-room slums and bidi shops inside. A Hanuman temple and posters of a current Bhojpuri film complete the look.

Arupara, Howrah

Ramakrishna Athletic Club, which had secured a five-star last year, has used solar energy to light the mandap and some lamp posts. The organisers have used large earthen pots for waste disposal, instead of plastic bins.

 

Inputs by Anumita Ghosh, Chandreyee Chatterjee, Poulomi Banerjee, Romila Saha and Malini Banerjee

Pictures by Pradip Sanyal, Bishwarup Dutta and Sanat Kumar Sinha

Corrigendum: The idol attributed to Nabin Sangha on Thursday is that of Barisha Youth Club.