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Celebrating the Power of Women

A pandal in central Delhi hosts 50 widows from Vrindavan as part of this year’s Durga puja celebrations.

Written by Pallavi Pundir |
Updated: October 20, 2015 12:10:09 am

A day before Durga Puja celebrations begin in the city, when most of the pandals are still in different stages of setting up, the Arambagh Durga Puja Park on Panchkuian Road is already teeming with visitors. At the entrance standing as sentinels are a 40-ft sculpture of a tribal woman with a bow and a sword, painted in gold, and a life-sized sculpture of another woman. From the ground emerge hands as if to reach out to them. This fibre glass installation sets the stage for what lies within. We walk in to find 50 women, clad in white sari, dancing to the beats of the traditional dhols. They are the widows of Vrindavan, who have been invited for the first time by the Arambagh Durga Puja Samiti to join in the celebrations. It’s not surprising that the Samiti’s theme this year is “Empowering Women”.

Known for including scale and social message in their annual Durga Puja themes, the Samiti’s celebrations also included Moushumi Koyal and Tumpa Koyal, who were active in the protests against the Kamduni rape case, along with sex workers from Sonagachi and NGOs such as Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee. “We have always had a social message. We even had the late APJ Abdul Kalam as our chief guest for our theme on world peace. This year, we look at nari shakti in our country, and the challenges women face every day. We all worship Durga during this time, but we thought we should first pay homage to the durgas in human form,” says Abhijeet Bose, Executive Chairman of the Samiti.

The Samiti has collaborated with Sulabh International, known for their work in Vrindavan, to get the widows to the Capital. “Most of us have been to Delhi before, but it is the first time we have come for the celebrations. We feel good about such initiatives, although in Vrindavan, such issues are being raised too,” says Kusumlata Mandaloi, 70, who is originally from Madhya Pradesh. The widows from Vrindavan and Varanasi have broken many a social orthodoxy barrier lately, by taking part in various festivals such as Iftar, Raksha Bandhan and Holi.

At Panchkuian Road, the pandal has portraits of personalities such as Kalpana Chawla, Mary Kom, Mother Teresa, Malala Yousafzai and Bhanwari Devi. It has taken the Samiti over a month to set the stage and organise the Puja. They had roped in Kolkata artists Tushar Gandhi Das and Partho Biswas along with Delhi College of Art-graduate Salil Bhattacharya for the sculptures, and Bapi Bose of National School of Drama as its artistic director.

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