WHILE MUMBAI has always celebrated Navratri grooving to Dandiya beats, slowly but surely, the sounds of the ‘dhaak’ too are catching up. The city is known to celebrate every festival with zeal, and over the past few years, its Bengali community has been organising bigger, more elaborate Durga Puja celebrations.
Thakur Village in Kandivli East is one of the areas where several pandals are set up this season, and a popular organiser is Hillside Residents Cultural and Welfare Association (HRCWA). “When we started off, we didn’t foresee the tremendous response our endeavour would get. Now that it is growing at such a fast pace,it feels good,” says chairperson Sudipto Chaterjee.
The organisation was set up three years ago with only 35 members, which has now increased to 150 and counting.
“During the five days of the festivity, we all unite to keep Kolkata alive in our hearts. Durga Puja for us is not just a religious festival, but a celebration of life itself,” says local resident Sulagna.
The festival has typical sights, sounds and smells attached to it, close to every Bengali’s heart.
In the centre of every pandal stands the majestic, 10-armed Durga slaying Mahishasur, surrounded by other gods. Conch shells are blown and plumed drums called ‘dhaaks’ beat, while the aroma of ‘bhog’, sweets and other delicacies hangs temptingly in the air.
While the celebration is not on the same scale as in Kolkata, some Bengali Mumbaikars feel the crowd here is better managed.
“The bhog is served to everyone in an organised manner without chaos, and celebrations are orderly,” says a proud Bengali Mumbaikar, Joel Mukherjee.
Surojit Sen Gupta, secretary of the Chembur Durga Puja Association, says, “We don’t miss Kolkata during Durga Puja anymore. Mumbai, with its vibrant people, has helped us recreate the celebrations. In an effort to keep our culture alive, we have brought artisans from rural Bengal to work on our pandal.”
After nine days of festivity and devotion, the 10th day is marked by ‘sindoor khela’, where married women smear vermillion on each other and the goddess. The devotees then immerse the idol in a grand procession, with the hope of welcoming Durga again the next year.