Durga Puja, celebrated in West Bengal, mainly in the capital city Kolkata, is one of the largest and most opulent cultural events in the country. Every year the festival is celebrated with a lot of fun and fervour. People come from across the state, and sometimes even the country and the world, to experience the creative outburst. Every year, the pandal organisers pool all of their resources to come up with an out of the box idea to glam up the pandal. Many traditional themes, as well as current socio-economic and then ongoing political issues, have been depicted in Kolkata’s Durga Puja pandals for years now.
Though this year, there is a cap on gatherings, and social-distancing norms will continue to be followed as the pandemic rages on, it has not stopped the organisers from unleashing their creativity. This time too, the artisans have put together some exemplary work that would leave the visitors awestruck.
Here’s a look at some of the year’s most intriguing themes:
Sreebhumi Sporting Club Durga Puja
Sreebhumi Sporting Club in Kolkata has constructed a pandal that is a replica of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Based on the motif of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the club has created an iconic 145-foot pandal in Lake-town.
Speaking to ANI, Sujit Bose, Sreebhumi Sporting Club president said: “Every year, we built the pandal in form of a replica of iconic buildings. Earlier, we had built it on the theme of Paris Opera, Kedarnath and Puri temples among others.”
West Bengal: Durga puja pandal in Kolkata’s Lake Town replicates Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower— ANI (@ANI) October 6, 2021
“Every year, we built the pandal in form of replica of iconic buildings. Earlier, we built it on the theme of Paris Opera, Kedarnath & Puri temples among others,” says minister Sujit Bose pic.twitter.com/PclwL1EhJr
He went on to say that the 145-foot-tall Burj Khalifa pandal has specific lighting systems to give it a majestic look at night and that it was created in two months by roughly 250 employees.
Reports suggest that the laser light show at Sreebhumi Sporting Club pandal was stopped on October 12 after the pandal started drawing huge crowds.
While there were claims that the laser lights were turned off in response to concerns from pilots flying out of Kolkata International Airport, airport sources told NDTV they were unaware of any official complaint.
Sreebhumi Sporting Club, organisers of the Puja, however, denied that there had been complaints. They said the laser light was switched off to prevent overcrowding. Currently, only still lights are on at the pandal.
Singhi Park Durga Puja
Singhi Park Durga Puja, which is in its 80th year, is one of the popular Durga Puja in Kolkata. The illustrious history of Singhi Park Durga Puja dates back to 1941. The Singhi Park Sarbojonin Durga Puja Committee which has been organising the Puja here in Singhi Park have come up with interesting themes and beautifully sculpted Durga idol year after year.
Durga Puja in Ekdalia, Ballygunge
The Durga Puja in Ekdalia, Ballygunge, Kolkata is organised by the Ekdalia Evergreen club, which is celebrating its 79th Durga puja this year. The president is Subrata Mukherjee. Ekdalia is known for their tall Durga idols and mesmerising decor and lighting. This year, what appears from the pictures is that the organisers have built a temple-like structure with intricate carving and statues of numerous dieties adorning the facade.
Hatibagan Sarbojanin Durga Puja
The Hatibagan Sarbojanin Club based its pandal around the concept of ‘Pichutan,’ which signifies a craving or a longing for something you can no longer have. Simply described, it is a recreation of 1970s Kolkata. This year’s puja will be held in the manner in which it was performed several decades ago in old Kolkata.
This pandal was inspired by a little-known Rajasthani craft tradition. Kaavad is a type of transportable temple/altar built by the craftsmen of Bassi village in Chittor. Dwarkaprasad Jhangid, a renowned Kaavad artist, has been directing a team of craftsmen from Bassi village in the creation of several kaavads and the merging of them into one enormous pandal here in Hatibagan.
Beliaghata 33 Pally Durga Puja
The artisans have tried to put together another innovative theme at North Kolkata’s Beliaghata 33 Pally Durga Puja Pandal. The organisers decided to construct the entire pandal out of iron and steel. The organisers tried to recreate the last few decades by putting up a newspaper printing press and an old-fashioned television.
This is the same pandal that ran into controversy for playing Azaan (the Muslim call to prayer) during the 2019 Durga Puja. Following this, a local lawyer filed a complaint and named ten people, including the club secretary of the puja pandal and local TMC leader Paresh Paul. He is the primary organiser of this community Puja, who is also the local MLA.
Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja
The Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja is one of the popular Durga Pujas of North Kolkata. This puja started in the year 1969. This year, the famous Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja in central Kolkata has chosen as its theme the importance of vaccines to the efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If 2020 was about the Covid-19 infection, 2021 is all about vaccination, the only weapon against the disease. So, this year, we are attempting to propagate the importance of vaccination from our Puja premises. The theme will revolve around the prevention of a pandemic and will specifically explore the significance of vaccination. Visitors will not be allowed inside the park but will have to get a glimpse of the Puja from the road. The goddess can be seen very well from a distance of 15 feet,” said the Puja committee’s general secretary Surendra Kumar Sharma.
The Md Ali Park Durga Puja committee focused its celebrations last year on the fight against coronavirus. Idols of Covid warriors such as doctors, health workers, and cops enacting situations were displayed at the goddess’s feet. Two health workers clad in PPE are seen attending a Covid patient. In another scene, frontline, Covid warriors like policemen are seen persuading people on the road to wear masks.
“We have covered the body of demon Mahisasura with the spiked Covid-19 virus as shown in pictures. He is the coronasura vanquished by the goddess,” the joint secretary of the puja committee Ashok Ojha had said.
FD Block, Salt Lake
This year’s Durga Puja pandal at FD Block in Salt Lake was created in the style of an old English castle. With a sparkling and colourful ‘chalchitra,’ the idol inside the pandal has been preserved fully traditional.
Kakurgachi Yuvak Brinda
The Kankurgachi Yubak Brinda Sharod Utsav committee decided to bring the historic Bengali theatre known as Jatra back to life this year. The pandal has been embellished with snippets of some of the greatest Jatras of the era. As for the idols, Karthik and Ganesha have been donned with props used in Jatras.
Shadhinota Dibosh Udjapan Samiti, Kakurgachi
This year’s Puja committee theme is based on traditional or indigenous art from different parts of the state. The pandal is wrapped in red embellishments, with Trishuls adorning the borders. Devi Durga sits in a traditional ekchala form in the pandal’s centre, surrounded by paintings by popular artist Jamini Roy.
Maniktala Chaltabagan Sarbojanin Puja
This year’s Chaltabagan theme is to depict the deity in a tribal setting. Everything has a tribal feel to it, from the pandal design to the idol. Devi Durga and her children are adorned in traditional tribal clothes and accessories.
The Manicktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja Committee members have given the pandal the shape of a treehouse, made entirely out of bamboo. The pandal is encircled by a green canopy, the top of which is designed like a bird’s nest. The idol, like the rest of the pandal, is adorned with bamboo and taalpata and made in the colour of clay.
“This year we are going to worship Ma Durga as personifying ‘beauty of nature’. Only natural materials and ingredients have been used to prepare the throne of ‘Bodhon’,” said a committee spokesperson.
Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojanin Durgotsab
The pandal at Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojanin Durgotsab has re-created Mehboob Studio, the famous film studio in Bandra, Mumbai in 1954, complete with legendary movie posters like those from Deewar and Sholay, using artists who had lost their jobs due to the advent of digital art.
Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojonin Durgotsab, which has been organising Durga Puja for the last 79 year, are one of UltraTech seven wonders of Durga Puja 2021. This year, the committee is into the 80th year of celebrations.
Dumdum Park Tarun Sangha
Dumdum Park Tarun Sangha has dedicated its pandal to local grocery stores that have provided assistance to residents during multiple lockdowns when chain stores and shopping malls have been closed. The Puja has used jars from local shops for decorating in addition to recreating a “mudir dokan” (grocery shop). Annapurna is how Goddess Durga has been depicted.
Dumdum Park Yubak Brinda
Dumdum Park Yubak Brinda, which has been organising Durga Puja for the last 55 years, has picked Samudra Manthan as its theme for this year. The Samudra Manthana explains the origin of Amrita.
The puja symbolises how individuals during the pandemic have suffered hardships and attempted to achieve their own kind of Amrita: regular living. The gods and devils are shown in the pandal using pictures with a unique south-Indian influence.
While it would be interesting to watch these innovative themed pandals, one should definitely not miss out on the idol of Mamata Banerjee depicting Goddess Durga being created by a group of three committees in West Bengal.
On September 2, three committees had collaborated to sculpt a statue resembling West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, with ten arms akin to that of Goddess Durga. The committees had decided that the statue will be placed along with the idol of the Goddess at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata.
This year, the festival commenced on October 11. The 10-day long festival begins with Mahalaya and is held in the month of Ashwin also known as Aswayuja, the seventh month of the Hindu calendar. Starting from the sixth day until the ninth day, the Pandals with grand idols of Goddess Durga are open for visitors. The tenth day, also known as Dashami marks the Visarjan (immersion in water) of the idol which too is done with a lot of fervour.