With Durga Puja festivities peaking on Wednesday, many eminent Bengalis feel its essence is being lost in the rush for commercialization and media publicity but nevertheless associate with it "goodness" and "magic" that make it a "larger-than-life" celebration. Durga Puja is like a real life cinema, thinks noted film director Gautam Ghose.
"Durga Puja has everything larger-than-life about it. Idol of Goddess Durga stabbing Mahishasura with her ten hands holding ten weapons, Her four children - Ganesha, Laxmi, Saraswati and Kartik - their 'vahanas' (steeds), and the legends attached to them, is more interesting than any film," Ghose told IANS.
"But I must say nowadays we are losing the essence of Durga Puja. Neither there is the soft carpet of 'shiuli' flowers (which blooms at this time of the year), nor the swaying white 'kaash' flowers across the green fields," said Ghose.
With theme Pujas replacing the traditional ones, devotion is giving way to competition and publicity.
"I love the traditional Durga Pujas held in old zamindar (landlord) families in Kolkata. The Durga idol seems so alive and the environment is so divine. But with the increasing number of theme Pujas taking place, the organisers are only concerned about media publicity, prizes offered by various media houses and other companies," said dancer-cum-actor Mamata Shankar. Writer Sunil Gangopadhyaya feels that whether good or bad, Durga Puja celebrations have become a part of people's genes and they can't live without it.
"If you are a Bengali or a resident of West Bengal you can't help but fall in love with this festival, with or without reason. This festival - good, bad, ugly - has become a part of our genes. And we celebrate it not just for the sake of Goddess Durga but to awaken the goodness and kill the demon in us," he said.
There is no doubt in the mind of noted magician P.C. Sorcar (Junior). "For me Durga Puja is synonymous with magic. This is the only festival that has the power to shower so much happiness on every one. I am filled with child-like enthusiasm a month before the Pujas, planning how to celebrate this festival like never before. But one never gets enough of it," he said.
The debate on the advantages and disadvantages of Durga Puja continues. Author Mahasweta Devi told IANS: "I don't believe in Durga Puja, it's wastage of time, energy and money. Especially this year with so much tragedy happening to the Singur farmers, I think celebrating Durga Puja is a way to prove that we are hypocrites and selfish."