Step into Kalibari Chandigarh and be enveloped by a world of colour, music, dance, devotion as it celebrates its golden jubilee with grand Durga Puja celebrations this year.
The biggest Kalibari in the country set up in 1969, it’s a space for many cultural and social activities and a meeting point for the large Bengali community of Chandigarh, though Durga Puja attracts people from all sections of society and faiths. “We have come a long way in these 50 years and we have made unique arrangements for this puja to
give people a whole new experience, with a special pandal inspired by the traditional pandals of Kolkata,” shares NK Das, president of the Kalibari.
Created in colours of deep mustard and gold, the pandal took more than two months of work, with a team of artists and craftspeople travelling from Kolkata to build it under the supervision of Rahul Das. Depicting the rich cultural traditions of Bengal, the decor is inspired by the traditional mud huts thatched with straw, with fresh flowers and
lights adding to the grandeur. The 12-foot-high Devi Pratima in all her beauty and finery reflects a traditional Bengali temple.
All the idols have been created by Khokan Adhikari, the master craftsman and his 14-member team. The sculptor and artist moved to Chandigarh in 1992 from Kolkata and has been part of this Kalibari ever since. This year, Khokan has created more than 65 idols, which have been sent to places and people across North India, including Leh
and Ladakh. “This work is part of our family tradition and the art and skill have been handed down from one generation to the next. Each idol, created with clay and other materials including straw, is a labour of love, as we paint and embellish it with finesse, using water paints, beads and other decorative materials. The pratima of Goddess
Durga has been specially designed and decorated to mark the 50 years of Kalibari,” shares Adhikari.
The walls of the Kalibari with paintings depicting the life of people in Bengal have been created for this special occasion by Soma Das, an art teacher here. A special cultural team from Kolkata has been presenting traditional
dance and music every evening, with young talent, members and groups from the city, also showcasing their creativity, be it in Bharatnatyam, Kathak, music or theatre.
“For the golden jubilee, we have published the first edition of Apabtrinu, a 150-page magazine, which tells the history of this Kalibari, its transformation, Durga Puja and its many dimensions,” says Rajesh Roy, the general secretary, adding that as many as 5,000 people visit the Kalibari during the Durga puja and this year, more than 100 volunteers from the city have stepped in to make it a huge success. “A large number of women have taken over many roles and are also interacting with people and guiding them about the many activities during the days of the puja,” he smiles.
The kitchens of the Kalibari are abuzz with activity, preparing food and serving bhog to hundreds during the puja, with special Bengali delicacies like a flavourful Bhoger khichuri with special tomato chutney, pulao, aloo phulkopir dalna, and payesh, an integral part of the menu. According to one of the chefs here, the special garam
masala, made with the choicest spices from Bengal is one of the secret ingredients of the sumptuous spread. Four dhol players from Kolkata liven up the mahabhog with the beat of their drums, with many volunteers and visitors joining in with dance.
“We have all divided our duties in the kitchen and dining area, and I usually take care of serving food to people in the afternoon. It is such a great feeling to spend these six days here and be a part of puja. It gives us a chance to connect with our friends, sing, dance and eat together,” enthuses Vaishali Das, a volunteer here. The famous
Kolkata roll, biryanis, ghugni chops and cutlets are the other specials you can savour in the stalls outside.
The Kalibari here is engaged in a number of social activities. Das says they will be donating sewing machines to more than 25 women to mark their golden jubilee. “On Monday, we will be observing the Maha Navami and on Tuesday is the Maha Dashami, with the immersion procession starting at 2 pm. We hope all those who have been part of
the puja here will feel the peace and joy within,” Das signs off. Amen to that.