TMC leaders, several of whom helmed community Durga Pujas across Kolkata, are embroiled in a debate over traditional versus theme-based pandals, which led to a subsequent round of one-upmanship.
Asked about theme-based pujas, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee had recently told reporters, “Ota pujo noy, ota holo Durgotsav. Aamader ta holo Durga pujo. Eta simple parthokko. (That is not puja, that is only festival. Ours is a Durga Puja).”
Mukherjee, who is associated with Ekdalia Evergreen, one of the city’s most popular traditional Durga Puja celebrations, also said that theme-based pujas were aimed at satisfying the needs of corporate houses, while traditional pujas are held as per rituals.
The minister’s comments triggered a number of reactions from other TMC leaders.
State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, who heads the Naktala Udayan Sangha, said Mukherjee’s puja attracted crowds because of its strategic location. “There are no popular puja pandals close to Naktala Udayan Sangha. Still people come here to visit our pandal. They are committed. However, there are many big pujas near Ekdalia Evergreen. If you visit Ekdalia then you will visit other pujas also. This is the reason why they get such a crowd. Had it been organised in a corner in South 24 Parganas, many would have given it a miss,” he added.
State Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Aroop Biswas, who is in-charge of Suruchi Sangha, spoke in favour of theme-based pujas. “Lakhs of people come here to see the craft displayed in theme-based puja pandals. This is one of the ways to keep art and crafts alive. There would have been no novelty if all organisers had opted for traditional pujas,” he said.
State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said the livelihoods of a lot of people depend on theme-based Durga Pujas. “…It is true that we organise festivals because Durga Puja has become a festival under the present government. Here organisers have the liberty to choose whether to hold either traditional or theme-based Durga Puja. There is nothing wrong in that, it is a matter of perspective,” he added.
TMC leader Sujit Bose, who organises the popular theme-based Durga Puja at Sreebhumi, said, “Everyone has the right to decide what is right for them.”
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh on Sunday said, “In the name of organising theme-based pujas, some organisers are deviating from the true essence of the ritual. It hurts our sentiments when such rituals are taken lightly…,” he added.