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The mega bonanza for the Bengalis is here, and come October 7, the streets of India (and especially Kolkata) will be flooded with Bengalis making their way from one pandal to another. Each year, the puja organisers try to floor visitors with innovation when it comes to the kind of puja pandals constructed each year. There are unique themes and art that not only aim to be distinctive but also deliver a meaningful message, pandal-hopping is not only a matter of fun but also a way to realise the kind of ideologies that are dominating current society.
Every year, artists come up with different themes to delight visitors, which involves months of planning and equally tedious amount of hard work. Because of the level of friendly competition amid the puja organisers, it’s also importat for them to keep the work and idea a secret before the bog reveal on Panchami/Sashthi. Nevertheless, we managed a peek into some of unique pandals to adorn the Kolkata festive landscape this year.
Golaghata Sarbojoni Puja
In the age of Internet and texting, we have almost forgotten the old form snail mail. Not just writing an email, but an actually letter on a postcard. Yes, we know it has been ages. This is what provoked artist Sourav Nag to come up with this theme dedicated to postcards, stamps and letter boxes. Talking to the IndianExpress.com, Nag said, “I was disheartened to see how one stamp after another was discontinued by the postal department. This has been a heritage. I fear one day like Asoka’s items with might land in the museum. I just could not overcome that feeling; I knew something had to be done.” The entire compound has been set by using over 50,000 post cards assembled with the help of Kolkata BPO. He says the people at the postal department were shocked when we demanded so many postcards, but are happy now about our initiative. Nag specifies that no postcards have been cut to create his art work.
With the hope that may be one day we would just celebrate “Letters Day” like Valentines’ Day or Mothers’ Day, when we would send our loved ones a handwritten letter, artist has created a giant mail box as the pandal, which took nearly three months to make.
Beliaghata 33 Pally
The iconic yellow Ambassador taxi manufactured by the Hindustan Motors is gradually fading away from Kolkata streets, with modern cars taking over. Hindustan Motors had suspended production from May 25, 2014, at its Uttarpara factory in Bengal due to low demand and lack of funds after a glorious tradition of few decades. The fact that the iconic taxi that has thus far defined Kolkata in many ways is slowly heading towards oblivion was enough for this club to dedicate their puja to these cabs.
The theme is “Nostalgia”, which uses the iconic ambassador, more precisely, yellow taxis. Organisers have deconstructed the car to decorate the pandal. To transform the idea into reality, they bought 15 taxis, 200 silencer pipes, and 300 car doors as well as other parts of the ambassador as decoration. Artist Shiv Sankar Das’ creation has already become the talk of the town. We just can’t wait to watch it when it’s complete.
The puja committee here, as part of their 68th year of celebrations, decided to take visitors to a fantasy world. With array of colours and art installations in the form of various animals, bugs and birds, among others, the committee has not just constructed the pandal, but painted the entire locality to match the theme. The buildings adjoining the pandal have been brightly lit and painted in rainbow colours. As artist Manas Roy aptly says, “It’s Holi in autumn.” The riot of colours is aimed to brighten up the mood reflecting the spirit of the festive season. But as Roy specifies, “We are living in the time of urban development and beautification but in achieving that the ecological balance is being hampered. We must ensure that the greenery of the city must not fade away and diversity is sustained.” With almost four months of extensive hard work, they hope the message of saving the environment in this bright and colourful way will make everyone happy — the rich and poor, the young and old.
Creating history last year with the highest idol ever of over 80ft could not provide joy to people for all the five days last year. After a stampede that led to some casualties as well, the pandal was ordered to be shut down. Moving ahead from the sad memory, this year, the puja committee has geared up with renewed spirits and an even bigger theme. Keeping the authorities in the loop to ensure safety, artist Minte Pal has worked with the theme “Hazar Haath”, which portrays the Goddess Durga as has been mentioned in the Chandi Path. The goddess here has 1,000 hands with which to kill 100 asuras.
Keeping the mythological text in mind, Pal has created the idol with as many as 1,000 hands and 100 demon heads that adorn the pandal. Made of fibreglass and not clay, this is going to much more spectacular that it seems. Talking to IndianExpress.com, Pal said it took over six months and around 30 people to execute the mammoth task. Set to be unveiled on October 4, this is the puja to look out for this year.
Padmapukur Youth Association
Bengal has a very rich heritage not only in literature but also cinema. Like the works of Rabindranath Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay have inspired filmmakers around the world, the state produced renowned filmmakers of its own. Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak being the most celebrated names in the world. Thus this club in central Kolkata decided to pay homage to Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray through their puja this year. The organisers have installed statues and models of many characters from Ray’s films along with the posters of his creation. Ray’s greatest characters from his films and books have come alive at this pandal. Ray, who was also an art designer and illustrator drew his own posters, and his iconic ones have been re-created here. From Feldu to Gupi-Bagha, Ray fans can relieve their cultural heritage at this pandal.
Kabiraj Bagan Sarbajanin Durgotsab
The lanes leading up to this locality in north Kolkata — which will be celebrating its golden jubilee this year — have highlighted the idea of ‘maitrayee’, meaning friendship. To do so, the organising club has actually recreated a train — the Maitrayee Express — that travels from India to Bangladesh bridging gaps and connecting people of the two countries. Initiated by the ward Councillor Amal Chakraborty, the premises has been constructed according to the Kolkata Station. The committee’s working secretary told IndianExpress.com, “People go through lot of hassle to get train tickets during puja and are disappointed with the rush and the long waiting list. We want people to come and enjoy a ride in our ac coaches to enjoy the puja.” Titled ‘Cholo beriye asi’ (Let’s go out), the organisers aim to represent the travel-crazy Bengali community with this theme.