On Sunday night (Maha Ashtami), one of the important days of Durga Puja, thousands streamed into a small park in Mayur Vihar to witness one of Delhi’s innovative pujas. The puja, organised by the Milani Cultural and Welfare Committee, is in its 25th year and has modelled this year’s pandal on Rabindranath Tagore’s critically acclaimed dance-drama ‘Tasher Desh’ (Card Country). It is a play, reportedly written sometime in the 1890s, about a group of children going into a wonderland filled with characters from playing cards like jokers, kings and queens. It is appreciated for throwing satirical light on the society.
The pandal’s gate, or entrance, is designed on the model of ‘Shilaidaha Kuthibadi’, a country house in present-day Bangladesh where Tagore spent a few years. The gate, red in colour, is imposing and has been adorned with the characters from playing cards. The inside of the pandal is perhaps the best part — entire roofs, walls and pillars made out of giant playing cards. To give a wonderland look, there are giant butterfly and moth models made out of newspapers and paper-mache, all biodegradable materials. A bust of the Nobel laureate was also placed at the entrance of the pandal.
“We (me and vice-president Aniruddha Sarkar) had thought of the theme two months back. Rabindranath Tagore is not just of Bengal or India. He is a world-renowned figure,” said Mrinal Biswas, general secretary of the committee. Incidentally, Tagore was awarded the Nobel prize for ‘Gitanjali’ in 1913, more than 100 years ago.
Biswas said the puja this year has been planned on a budget of Rs 60 lakhs. “In CR Park, puja is commercialised. Ours is a theme-based puja,” said Biswas taking a dig at the puja committees in Chittaranjan Park, a neighbourhood in south Delhi home to a large number of affluent Durga Puja committees in the city.
“The idols of the gods and goddesses have been brought from Kolkata, even the clay. We have used eco-friendly colours from Kumartuli,” said Biswas.
On Sunday night, kids, youngsters and elders alike bowed down to the Goddess offering their prayers as a Brahmin priest chanted Sanskrit verses. In a different corner of the pandal, upon a stage young girls danced amid glittering lights. There were also others who took selfies and family photographs amid the surging crowds. Biswas said he expected close to 35,000 people to visit the pandal on the important days of saptami, ashtami and navami.
The idols will be immersed in the Yamuna river on Tuesday (dashami), the last day of the Durga puja celebrations.