Every year, the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja members cling to their 110-year-old tradition of having a bullock cart carry the goddess Durga to the immersion site at Yamuna. This year as the oldest public Durga Puja of Delhi stands in the premises of Bengali Senior Secondary School, it faces a threat. Circulars by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee have prohibited the immersion of idols in the river. What they have instead is an artificial pond in Burari, 10 km away from their pandal for their 15-ft idol. Robin Bose, general secretary of the organising committee, says, “Yamuna is out of bounds but to see Durga immersed in black, filthy water is extremely emotional for us. However, it is difficult to make our bullock cart travel so far. We have requested the deputy chief minister’s office for an immersion site that is closer.”
Meanwhile, the Kashmere Gate pandal has switched to bowls (dona) made of leaves, in place of thermocol ones, for their bhog and prasad. Designing its interiors like the Jorasanko neighbourhood of Kolkata, where the ancestral house of Rabindranath Tagore sits, it has replicas of the author’s books and sculptures within it as well. Going the same route of green cutlery is the Matri Mandir Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti at Matri Mandir in Safdarjung Enclave, where they will serve bhog in betel leaf plates. Debashis Saha, General Secretary of the Samiti, says, “Earlier it was thermocol plates. With the ban on plastic, the expenditure has gone up three times.”
The pandals at Chittaranjan Park, known for hosting some of the best Durga Pujas in Delhi, has left no stone unturned to attract footfalls. The Cooperative Ground Durga Puja Samiti welcomes visitors with photo collages of two doyens of Indian music on their birth centenary, Hemanta Mukherjee and Manna Dey. Mukherjee’s song Ranar, that tells of a postman who travelled through jungles to deliver letters, with a lantern in hand, is given a pictorial depiction on a wall. Dey’s Bengali song Coffee Houser sei addata of friends and the famous Indian Coffee House at College Street in Kolkata shines on another mural. Shorba Bong, member of the executive committee, informs about a singing competition. “We are also getting Ankita Bhattacharyya, this year’s winner of Zee Bangla’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, and Indian Idol participant Amit Paul.” For the first time, the Samiti will immerse their idol within their own premises in a 20 x 8 ft pit.
Meanwhile, the Milani Durga Puja association in Mayur Vihar Phase 1 has taken the “Save Earth” theme literally. Two hands hold the earth at the entrance, with fire emerging from above, to depict the panchtattva. Artist Sudip Ranjan Roudh from Kolkata has created replicas of peacocks, trees and water. He says, “The inspiration has been how we can preserve nature through our Vedic knowledge.” The idol in light sea blue has been made entirely from mud and eco-friendly dyes. The Durga Puja pandal by the Indraprastha Matri Mandir Nirman Society at Aradhana Park in IP Extension has gone further and used recycled items sourced from junkyards and scrap dealers. With gas cylinders for heads and steel scrap for bodies, the idols are accompanied with decorations made from used bulbs and soft drink cans.