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In Sahibabad, women break barriers as they helm Durga Puja celebrations

The event is celebrated with an aplomb that would fit one of Kolkata's famous pandals, complete with conch-blowing and ululating calls known as "uludhoni.

Durga PujaThe idol is set to be immersed in the Hindon in a visarjan ceremony later in the day. Organisers say the idol is entirely eco-friendly, having been made in Kolkata, from earth. (Express Rajendra Yadav)

At a hall in Sahibabad, on the last day of Durga Puja, is a tiny West Bengal, the place bustling with Bengali speakers. But what makes it unique are the organisers — the decision makers, priests and even the drummers — all women. Organised by members of the Shalimar Garden Mahila Sewa Samiti, the event under their “Ananya Nari” is a maiden attempt in this part of the country, according to them.

The event is celebrated with an aplomb that would fit one of Kolkata’s famous pandals, complete with conch-blowing and ululating calls known as “uludhoni.” The idol is set to be immersed in the Hindon in a visarjan ceremony later in the day. Organisers say the idol is entirely eco-friendly, having been made in Kolkata, from earth.

According to Papri Chakraborty, president of the Samiti, “About a year ago, I came up with the idea of a women-led Durga Puja to a group of friends and they agreed… at a later meeting in Shalimar Bagh, 20 -25 women volunteered to join and more have joined ever since. There was some hesitance at first, but everything has gone excellently now…. I have heard that other Durga Puja committees in the area are also planning to include more women.”

She added, “Everything has been organised by our group including the food… people were brought from outside only for cutting. All the preparation is done by us and the bhog is also being served by women.”
General Secretary Sumona Chakrabarti says, “The work for this has been going on for about two months…. it has been a great experience so far, and about 400 people attended on Ashtami (the third day of the celebration). Women from all walks of life including teachers, lawyers, and MNC employees are participating.”

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The drummers, Nilima Ghosh and Sujata Choudhury from 24 parganas, say this is the first time they have travelled so far for an event. They learnt to play the drums after someone in their village went to the USA and saw women playing instruments, and encouraged locals to emulate the practice, which later culminated in getting featured on Bengali TV channels.

It is also a first for the team of priests from Kolkata named “Ceremony Celebrations”, who have been performing rituals for about a year. The trio comprising Diptasree Ganguly, Swapna Biswas and Bornali Ghoshal had previously experienced housewarming and marriage rituals, though this is the first Durga Puja they have had an opportunity to officiate. Swapna says, “If they call us again next year we will be glad to do it again.”

Debasish Tiwari, whose wife Nandita is one of the organisers, says, “We men are here just as a backup team. All the important decisions are being made by women, from the colours to dress code to the food.”
Meanwhile, the samiti has big plans for next year. Papri Chakraborty says, “We have had a lot of requests from people who want to join… after the Puja is over, we will prepare membership forms.”

First published on: 05-10-2022 at 09:11:42 pm
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