Durga Ma has a Chinese connection. She is Nan Jin Mu in China.” Ma Zhanwu, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China, had said a few months ago.
A puja pandal in Kolkata now aims to bring that connection to life, transporting the Chinese province of Yunnan to the city. Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi inaugurated the BJ Block Saradotsav Committee pandal in Salt Lake on Saturday evening.
Earlier this year, a five-member delegation of the puja committee had visited Cangyuan County, popularly known as the Bottle Gourd Town, in Yunnan and announced that the pandal would be built in a form of a ‘hulu’ (Chinese bottle gourd) as it signified happiness and prosperity in China.
The organisers had expressed their wish to collaborate with the consulate last year, when Ma had visited their puja. The tie-up became official in March, when the organisers met him again and presented their plan and ideas. “Durga Puja in Kolkata is more of a social celebration than a religious one, and this is what we want to highlight through this collaboration and cultural exchange,” Bhaskar Sinha Roy, member of the puja committee, had told The Sunday Express. “Even if one is an atheist, she can come and enjoy the rich cultural heritage at our pandal,” Roy added.
Speaking at the pandal, Ma said, “People-to-people exchanges such as this will benefit both cultures. This puja will promote bilateral relations, friendship, cultural exchanges and co-operation.” Earlier, he had said, “Durga is not unknown in Chinese culture. Many temples in China have pictures of her. Nan Jin Mu means the formidable goddess who defeats enemies.”
The organisers said that though the embassy was not sponsoring the puja, they would bear the cost of the visiting artistes and guests. “As we collaborated with the Chinese Consulate General, we wanted to bring a slice of their culture and tradition to our pandal. The livelihood of people from Yunnan will be portrayed in our pandal. Through this, we will send a positive mesage to the two countries on the need to improve relations,” said a member of the puja committee.
He said Chinese and Indian artistes would put up live performances at the pandal and a 40-member team from China would arrive in Kolkata to experience the festivities and savour the food at the stalls, including five which will sell Chinese food.
Inside the pandal are models of tribal homes of Yunnan, with colourful paintings on the walls.