Every year, the 10-day festival of Durga Puja brings with it the excitement of buying new clothes, savouring delicious food, dancing to the rhythm of the dhak or just admiring the powerful idols of Durga. The last five days of the festival involve rituals and offerings, and the streets of Pune will be filled with devotees out and about in the Puja spirit. The festival begins with Mahalaya, which, according to Bengali tradition, is the day when goddess Durga, along with her children, goddess Lakshmi, goddess Saraswati, Shri Ganesha and Shri Kartikeya, begin their journey to Durga’s maternal home.
For residents of Pune, these Puja pandals should definitely hold a spot in your pandal hopping itinerary.
Pune Kalibari, Khadki
One of the oldest Puja pandals in the city, the Pune Kalibari will be celebrating its 80th sarbojonin Puja this year. “For this year, we have made a replica of the Akshardham as part of the Puja pandal decoration. The highlight of this year’s Puja will be the all-female dhaki troupe from Kolkata, who will perform on Vijaya Dashami.
Additionally, we will have performances by Amit Chakraborty with the Melody Makers, Arpita Chakraborty and Arpan Chakraborty as well as singing performances by Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs contestants Miladri Chatterjee and Reema Chokroborty. We also have a magic show by the Stars of Pune on Navami,” said committee member Sneha Das.
With their theme ‘The Earth is fit’, the Koregaon Park Puja will focus on the responsible use of water and sustainable and eco-friendly ways of living. The Puja has been organised by the Nandonik Sansta for the past 16 years. “We have absolutely no use for plastic or thermocol in our decorations. This year, we have used sholapith, which is white in colour and eco-friendly. Its disposal does not harm the environment. Our idol is also made of mud and straw, which makes it environmental-friendly,” said Supriya Banerjee, a committee member.
Ashish Roy, president of the pandal, added, “For the Bengali crowd, we have a Bengali skit as well as a performance by Sanchari Mukherji from Kolkata. We also have a performance by Mukta Shah. To promote the message of sustainable living, we have partnered with SWaCh as well as the Robin Hood Army. They will provide help for the disposal of waste generated as well as a channel for the extra food items to be given to the needy. We will also have stalls which are associated with NGOs associated with water management.”
Organising its 35th sarbojonin Puja, the Congress Bhavan is among the oldest Puja pandals in Pune. Dr Pulak Thakur from the pandal said, “The Puja will begin with a dance recital by Dr Nilanjana Mukherjee, followed by the inauguration ceremony by Pune Police Commissioner Dr K Venkatesham.” The programme also features musical performances by Tapas Mukherjee and troupe, Lambada live by Manoj Pandya as well as Smaraner Swarnabindu by Madhumita Ghosh. A dance performance by children from the Dharamvir Shamburaje Orphanage and Old Age Home will also be held.
To represent women, especially rural women as well as the tradition of Durga Puja in Gram Bengal, the Agradoot Bangosamaj will have its idols made entirely of clay with no trace of other material like cloth. “Ma will not have the aggressive features we generally come across in the Mahishasura Mardini forms. Instead, we tried to represent rural women through the Goddess’s idol,” said Arin Dubey, cultural secretary.
“We will hold an event called Subarnarekha, in which dances based on rural forms will be performed. They will be performed by children and women alike. We have also asked in-house children to perform a skit based on environment and water crisis awareness,” said Bablu Maity, president.
The highlight of this Puja, however, is the Dhunuchi dance in which anyone can participate and follow the choreographed steps.
Marking their 34th year, the decorations of Banga Bharati resemble the Jaipur Palace. Committee member Tirta Prasad Mukherjee said, “Adding to the entertainment quotient are popular artistes Malabika Mukherjee and Rajashree Bag of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs fame, among others. We will also have a dance ballet, Mahishashur Mardini, by Banga Bharati. We have also conducted a traditional shonkho dhwani (conch shell) blowing competition,and Dhunuchi naach competition (dancing on the rhythm of dhak). Additionally, with food being integral to the celebrations, sweetmeat makers called moyras will be coming from Kolkata to make some traditional delicacies as well as the Bhog ranna.”
Vrindavan Lawns, Baner Road
With a star studded schedule with notable performances by Alka Yagnik, Mir and Bandage, Rupam Vhuyam, Malang as well as Quantum Groove Band, the Aagomoni Prabasi Sangha is celebrating the festivities with a lot of pomp and show. “This is our second year. We will have an in-house fashion show as well as drawing competition. We will also have a Sham-e-Gazal by Chiranjib Sharma and team,” said Sandeep Bhattacharjee.
“We are celebrating our 15th year. This year, our theme is ‘digital’. For Ma’s mandap, we have Facebook, while for the cultural events, we have decorated the stage to resemble a YouTube page. Our idol is decorated with sholapith,” said cultural committee member of Bangiya Sansad Nagar, Shompa Bhattachrya. The Puja’s highlight is Shindoor Khela or the tradition to smear vermilion, which will also include individuals from the transgender community. The schedule also includes a skit on the stories of Alibaba and a Dhunuchi dance competition.
The Puja pandal organised by the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in the city will have non-commercial decorations done by the students of AFMC, said committee member Colonel Bhasker Mukherjee. The Puja pandal will also hold cultural programmes as well as have several food stalls to quench the Puja hunger.
The idol at this pandal will be quite unique, according to Amarnath Mukherjee. The idol of Ma Durga, goddess Lakshmi and goddess Saraswati will have three lions, apart from their vahans (mounts) of lion, white owl and swan. Meanwhile, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya will ride elephants apart from their vahans of mouse and peacock, respectively. “We will decorate the exterior with Kolkata lights. We will organise Sruti natak as well as a folk music performance by Shumon Dey.”
Representing the Akaal bodhan or the untimely awakening of Goddess Durga by Lord Rama, this Durga Puja pandal will not only have idols of Goddess Durga and her children but also idols of Lord Rama, Lord Lakshman, Lord Hanuman and Ravana, said president Bikas Dey.