Saturday, October 16, 2010



The earliest  images of Durga Puja I recall is  of  a village in Murshidabad district , known as  Shimulia , wherefrom the family of my mother originates. My grandfather, who was a doctor in Calcutta, had his establishment in Shimulia village. I recall the Candimandap, the Goddess in Her full glory, the priest's puja offering in chaste Sanskrit and sacrifice of goats on Sandhipuja and Nabami. My grandfather's elder brother would match the crescendo of  the dhakis' percussion with loud calling out  of prayers  during the moments of sacrifices. Later, I  realised, he ... and the priest , Bhondul masai.... used to be under the influence of alcohol at those moments.

After my grandfather expired,  fund flow  for this Durga Puja dried up. Later, as my uncles did nor take any interest in their ancestors property, their relatives sold off the buildings and landed property piece by piece.
The Candimandap is now nearly flattened, but for a small portion where idol of Maa Carcikaa.... worshiped by the family for generations.....has been kept. With a son of my mother's cousin's family getting financially established and being in a position to revive the tradition. I did not have an opportunity to be present at Shimulia this Puja (2010), but, offer my prayer to the deity as I found Her last February when Ruby and I visited Shimulia village .

Decades after, in my sixties, I have collected a good number of  Duga Puja's photos. Since I purchased my 1st digital camera while @ Durgapur , I have taken scores of photos of  Puja for many years. I am no longer young, I  visit   a few pandals in Calcutta in the vicinity which have earned good name for splendour and artistic merit. A good representation  of  current days style of decoration and display  I have collected through years !

One of the best  idols I have seen is here :

 I do not like the doll-like idols which have become quite popular these days in Calcutta. Initially, this style  appealed a lot , but now , repetition  has rubbed off the novelty. Here is a photo of one such idol which is a few years old. I was quite fond of this style .... but too many copies have now been made. The advantage of  having such an idol has probably a relationship with cost. This type of  idol is relatively small in size and therefore organisers do not have to shell out a fortune for the kind Ballygunge Cultural or Ekdalia Evergreen needs. So,  other attractions like pandal decoration gets a good share of  the collection .

But,  the hype in media  before and during the Puja days have brought a question in my mind. There is a lot of emphasis on the crowd a Puja pandal attracts. We find a spirit of carnival among the revelers ! The more is the publicity, the more crowd the pandal pulls.... thus attracting larger Corporate contribution. I often wonder, so much time goes into planning  a pandal's shape and decoration and hundreds of man-hours go into creating it ,  do not   fare appreciation from the swelling crowd. Thousands of people streaming through the In- and Out-  gates get just a glimpse of the splendour created as the volunteers herd the people at every stage. If one has to savour the 'creations', only time to visit is early mornings .... when lighting cannot be enjoyed.... and the evenings of Dashami/Ekadashi , when crowd pressure is minimal.I remember once Badamtala Puja committee had displayed a style based Kalighat's pata. I went in the evening of Ekadashi and could take as many photos as I wanted to , because there was a handful people around. but, then , the maximum number pandals one can cover will be between 10 and 15, hardly more !

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