The New Town Sarbajanin Durga Puja, scheduled to be inaugurated on Monday, has many firsts to showcase, including all-women teams of priests and ‘dhakis’.
The first community Durga Puja in the satellite township located on the northeastern fringes of Kolkata is focused on ‘Mother Bengal’ and women empowerment.
“All four priests of the puja are women, as are the 12 ‘dhakis’ (drummers) and around a dozen performers of ‘Dhunuchi Naach’,” Samaresh Das, secretary of the Durga Puja committee said.
Dhunuchi Naach is a dance performed during the evening aarti. Performers dance to the tune of ‘dhaak’ or traditional drums while balancing clay bowls containing charcoal, coconut husk and powdered incense in their hands and mouth.
Spread over 2.5 lakh sq ft of open space on a ground near the Central Mall, as opposed to the space crunch faced by most Durga Pujas in Kolkata, the New Town Sarbajanin Durga Puja will have a dedicated ‘adda zone’.
The puja is themed on ‘Banga Janani’ (Mother Bengal) and will showcase the traditional art and culture of the state.
The marquee showcases terracotta items, dokra art, puppets and Nabanna festival among other art and culture, and fetes associated with West Bengal. “The theme is a collage of different handicrafts of West Bengal. Wooden dolls, dokra and terracotta items, Manasa Ghot, Chhau masks, and clay artworks have been used. The idols that will be traditional,” artist Prasanta Pal said.
Dattatriya Ghoshal, one of the four women priests, said the puja will be held as per vedic rituals, adding she has been a priest since 2018.
Das said the ‘adda zone’, spread over a large area, has been built with bamboo and has thatched roof where visitors will be able to sit and chat with friends and family.
Since festivities in West Bengal are incomplete without food, around 100 food stalls will be set up on the premises, he said.
Das said no local resident had to pay any donation for the puja as it is being organised through individual and corporate sponsorship.
“There are various apartments and residential complexes in the township and people living there contribute to the Durga Pujas held in their respective complexes. Hence, we thought they shouldn’t be overburdened,” he said.
There will be around 150-200 volunteers, and they and their family members will be provided with free food at the pandal, Das added.