The sculpture of Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-born woman to travel in space, welcomes visitors at Matri Mandir in Safdarjung Enclave. The Matri Mandir Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti pays an ode to women empowerment, to mark its 51st Durga Puja celebrations. Life-size murals of legendary Indian women include Lata Mangeshkar; Suchitra Sen, who was the first Indian actor to win an award at an international film festival at the 1963 Moscow International Film Festival; and Arunima Sinha, the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest. Working with a budget of Rs 70 lakh, Debashis Saha, General Secretary, Durga Puja Samiti, says, “When we began planning six months ago, I saw a tweet from Prime Minister Modi regarding nari shakti, where he mentioned that given a chance, women can shine. We thought of showcasing the achievements of Indian women in different fields, since Durga is the epitome of nari shakti.” On September 27, for the Maha Saptami evening, there is a show ‘Remembering Pancham’ planned, where four band members who worked with the legendary RD Burman, will come together on stage. Singer Babul Supriyo will perform on September 29 evening.
See Durga in her traditional form, composed by the Co-operative Ground Durga Puja Samity at CR Park, where the goddess is meticulously decorated. Popularly known as Daaker Saaj, it derives its name from its history of decorative material for the goddess brought in goods train via mail and post (daak).
The theme of the pandal has been inspired by Panchabhuta, the five elements — earth, water, fire, air and ether. The panels surrounding the idol have been made using recyclable materials such as wooden planks, ply boards, jute ropes, coconut shells, bamboos and shells, and depict mythological and urban renditions of the five elements in Gond art style. The modern day interpretations include factories to portray agni, electricity and turbines for jal and wind mills and rockets for vayu. The red-and-white shakha pola bangles worn by married Bengali women have inspired an installation on the ceiling surrounding a round circular ball. “The ball is a symbol of energy emanating out of Shakti’s blessings, and stands for life and birth,” says Shubhankar Bhandari, the brain behind the design of the pandal.
Vegetarian All the Way
The D Block Durga Puja pandal at CR Park stays true to its theme of Raj Bari (palace of the king). Replete with arches, windows and pillars, made using bamboo and ply boards, and ornate with chandeliers, an old chair, gramophone and chess board placed at the entrance, welcome visitors into the palatial interiors. The puja food has been strictly kept vegetarian, including the exclusion of onions. “We tend to eat everything throughout the year. But we believe that sanctity should be maintained for the puja,” says Sujoy Ghosh, secretary of D Block Sarbojanin Puja Samiti. The organisers ensure that bhog is sent to all the elderly in the neighbourhood, most of whom are sick or staying alone, without their families.
Bowing to Tradition
As the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja enters its 108th year, it continues to hold its bullock cart visarjan till date. It is organised by Delhi Durga Puja Samiti at the Bengali Senior Secondary School at Alipur Road near Civil Lines. Arun Roy, 70, who has been looking after the idol and pandal decoration for the last couple of years, says, “We are continuing the tradition of praying to the goddess in a simple and homely atmosphere. We don’t believe in themes. Most pandals these days dress up the idols like heroines, but we believe in keeping her attire traditional and the look of Durga’s face the same, as it has been since 1911. People feel at home when they are here.”
Old is Gold
One of the oldest pandals in the Capital that celebrates the festival in its traditional form is the Minto Road Durga Puja. Organised by the Minto Road Puja Samity at Kali Mandir in Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg, it is famous for its dhunuchi dance and pushpanjali (offering of flowers). Head to the pandal to see the authentic classic style of bonedi (aristocratic) pujo. Without glitzy exteriors and pompous decorations, the pandal seems to have refused to fall prey to the onslaught of commercialisation.