A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee
(Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee)
Durga Puja is celebrated with loud pomp and grandeur across the state of West Bengal, especially in Kolkata. Maa Durga is perhaps the only Goddess who is worshipped with deeper emotions at temporary pandals than in permanent temples by the carnival crazy Bengalis. Loads of activities, businesses and commercial promotions are planned round the year, keeping the grandeur of Durga Puja in mind. No harm in saying, it has now become the festive showstopper of Eastern India.
With time and changes in political construct of the state, a handful of the festival organizers have become immensely popular, while a few still maintain their cultural traditionalism. Even the city’s renowned housing estates too throw neck to neck competition to the bigger ones, not just in terms of status but also their grand celebrations. And no festivity is complete without competition. The eminent pujas compete amongst themselves to win awards like Best of the Best, Best Pandal, Best Idol, Best Lighting and so on.
Best of South Kolkata Durga Pujas Through My Lens
Chetla Agrani Club (Sera Pujo Sharod Samman 2018 award winner)
(Theme: Voice Against Female Infantoecide)
Shuruchi Sangha (Sera Mandap Sharod Samman 2018 award winner)
(Theme: Traditional Clay Art of Bengal)
Alipore Prasannamayee Ghat (92 years old puja of traditional style)
Recently, some of the city’s private clubs have started getting sponsorships in crores (budgets often higher than many super hit Tollywood movies) which enable them to decorate the idols with tons of real gold and diamond jewelleries, recreate theme based historical monuments as puja pandals, arrange inaugurations by distinguished guests, organize world class cultural performances by famous celebrities, brighten the city with thousands of lights and what not!
Best of North-Eastern Kolkata Durga Pujas Through My Lens
Sreebhumi Sporting Club (Sera Mandap Sharod Samman 2018 award winner)
(Theme: Chittorgarh Fort of ‘Padmavat’, idol decorated with original gold ornaments)
Dum Dum Park Tarun Dol Club
Kestopur Majher Para Sarbojonin
Manicktala Netaji Sangha
Kestopur Prafulla Kanan Sarbojonin
Dum Dum Park Amra Kajon (housing puja)
Hind Motor Runner Club
Mani Square Mall
Salt Lake FD Block
(Theme: Dinosaur Park)
Salt Lake AK Block (Serar Sera Sharod Samman 2018 award winner)
(Theme: Sita’s Abduction)
However, all their year round hard efforts remain incomplete till the time countless visitors flood the puja pandals during the auspicious festival days. Whatsoever, as an ardent crazy fan of Kolkata’s Durga Puja, it feels very humiliating when the organizers or administrators of the prominent pujas (especially respective year’s award winning ones) misbehave with the incoming visitors; as if they have forcibly trespassed the club’s restricted area. Unnecessary road blocks and no entries often create more nuisance than discipline. Rather than mandating needlessly long one way pandal entrances, if entries are left open to natural crowd behaviour, the traffic might take a much better shape. During peak days when the rush is maximum, after a tiring walk of at least a kilometer and a wait of couple of hours, the sweating visitors hardly get a minute to see the idol inside the pandal. From a distance, the queue closely looks like a choked canal with a constant push from behind complemented with loud reprimands from the administrators standing in front of the idol. And by any chance, if someone wants to click a photo inside, hundreds of filthy words will flood his ears criticizing the act and in no time he will be forced to vacate the place as if only because of him the other persons in the queue are prevented from witnessing the idol. By doing this, in an attempt to let everyone see the festive artworks, the club actually prevents all their visitors from witnessing the awesome creativities.
At times the visitors are also rebuked using slangs or physically harassed by the administrators (yes you read it correct) to keep them off from taking photographs or selfies anywhere inside their puja pandal or with the idols. If they do not want common people like us to visit their pandals, then what is the reason of creating hypes with those loud advertisements even before the start of the festive week? Instead of gimmicks, they should rather simply invite the media at a comfortable time, record their creative grandeur and telecast to the commoners during the puja days or anytime later. Award winning clubs may also start a ticketing system like cinemas and allow only the bearers inside. This will not only help them to keep away the crazy visitors, but also maintain a healthy atmosphere inside the puja pandals, with no one to disturb the committee members. What’s say, isn’t that a great idea?
In case they still want visitor footfalls, as organizers, they must first learn the basics of queue management and effectively handle the crowd rather than misbehaving or throwing people out of the puja pandals so inhumanely. If the youth start abandoning those clubs in the years to come, will the purpose of spending crores in just one puja pandal be met? Will they still get wealthy sponsors by recording a falling TRP? Will lesser footfalls be a success metric for the organizers? It’s high time to give a second thought.