After the Covid-triggered two-year hiatus, festivities are back in full vigour at Durga Puja venues in Pune city in Maharashtra. Besides the decorations and stalls, big pandals based on various themes are giving a tinge of Bengali tradition to the festive spirit.
“We have been flooded with calls seeking details of stalls, location etc and we are so happy to entertain every devotee of Maa Durga,” said Arin Dubey, president of Nandanik Sanstha, a socio-cultural organisation. “We are very hopeful that many people will enjoy the much-awaited Durga Puja celebrations that we so badly missed for the last two years,” he said.
Many committees across the city have invited artists from Kolkata to design the pandals from paper, wood, bamboo, fabric and other materials. Banga Bharti, an organisation of the Bengali community, has designed its Durga Puja pandal that features world peace and victory over the Coronavirus.
While the Pune Kali Bari Durga Puja Association pandal is themed around the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) temple of Mayapur in West Bengal, the Bangiya Sanskriti Samsad, popularly known as the Congress Bhavan Durga Puja, is entering its 83rd year with the theme of a terracotta-palace style decoration. At the Paschim Pune Bangiya Parishad, the goddess looks upon devotees from a beautifully decorated ‘Thakurdalan’ or traditional puja mandap of Zamindar houses in Bengal.
The ritual worship has begun and crowds are thronging the venues. At the Nandanik Sanstha, for instance, people can see the idol made from ‘shola’, representative of a folk art form of Bengal. Various cultural programmes such as dance drama, fair and magic shows are held at the pandals. Professional singers are invited to sing bhajans and stuti in praise of goddess Durga as well as modern songs.
Another attraction is the delicacies offered at the pandal stalls. They range from the home-cooked ‘Ghugni’ to the food prepared by chefs from Bengal. “We have experts from Bengal helping with the prasad preparation,” says Aniket Pal, a member of the Banga Bharati Durga Puja.
Various committees are also conducting general health checkups and blood donation camps. Free lunch and bhog packets are given to financially weaker sections as well as to old age homes. “This year, we are contributing an amount to the New Life Hospital at Kasarsai that treats pet animals,” said Anup Datta, president of Pune Kali Bari, Khadki.