Marquees themed on Mother Nature and communal harmony will adorn the streets of Kolkata during Durga Puja this year.
Every year, many puja organisers use a subject matter and their pandals, idols and lighting arrangements depict it.
The marquee and its interiors of the puja organised by Kashi Bose Lane Puja Committee in North Kolkata will be themed on ‘Mati’ (earth). Somen Dutta, general secretary of the committee, told PTI, ”Mother Earth is embedded in our existence and it is where we go back to after death. It also signifies creation as trees and plants grow on earth.” The pandal will be more spacious than the previous two years so that thousands of people can visit it, he said.
Restrictions were in place during the festival in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dutta, an important functionary of the Forum for Durgotsab, a platform of Durga Puja organisers in the city, said members of the puja committee will also participate in a rally to toast the UNESCO honour on September 1.
On December 15 last year, UNESCO added ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Preparations are on at Samaj Sebi Sangha, one of the big ticket pujas in Ballygunge area of the metropolis, to recreate the ambience of the festival in 1946, when the committee had began the community puja for the first time, the organisers said.
It will be placed on contemporary format with a stress on maintaining communal harmony and amity as the festival in 1946 was preceded by communal clashes in the city, puja committee secretary Arijit Maitra said.
”We are awaiting bigger response from sponsors as in 2019 and are hopeful that with the CM’s announcement, any doubts about the upcoming Durga Puja festival not reaching the pre-pandemic scale have now been dispelled and more sponsors will approach us in another 10 days’ time,” Maitra said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee this week hiked the financial assistance for each of the state’s over 40,000 Durga Puja-organising clubs to Rs 60,000 from last year’s Rs 50,000, besides announcing a 60 percent rebate on electricity bills.
”Even though Rs 60,000 is a token amount for a big puja like ours, it shows the spirit of assistance and commitment of the state government to the puja committees that are hit by the sluggishness of the market. ”Also there were apprehensions about the administration going ahead with the COVID-19 curbs like in the last two years. But with the CM announcing a rally to commemorate the UNESCO tag, we think clouds have been cleared. Durga Puja will be held in its usual grandeur,” Maitra said.
Crowd-puller College Square Puja Committee in North Kolkata is going ahead with its plan to have a big pandal, resembling a Radha Krishna Temple at Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, which will be accessible to lakhs of visitors like in pre-COVID days, puja committee spokesperson Bikash Majumdar said.
”Though we were initially apprehensive about whether restrictions would be lifted with the rise in coronavirus cases about a month back, we did not stop work. Now the CM’s go-ahead message has made us carry on with our preparations in full swing. ”This will be the 75th year of College Square Puja coinciding with the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. Our illumination on the sprawling lake before the pandal will highlight the sacrifices of freedom fighters,” Majumdar added.