Durga puja — or pujo as Bengalis would assert — is the time when tradition and modernity, fun and frolic everything goes hand in hand and babu moshais of the capital are spoilt for choice.
There are a few puja pandals that date back to almost 100 years. For instance, the Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, popularly known as Kashmere Gate Puja, is in its 99th year of celebrations.
Everything is traditional at this oldest puja in Delhi. “The idols, those of Durga, Saraswati and Laxmi along with Ganesh and Kartikeya, are all under ek chaali (single frame). We strive to maintain the tradition,” says Samarendra Bose, chairman of this puja’s pandal committee.
The evening aartis are a huge draw and even scores of non-Bengalis join in for a darshan of the beautifully decorated Maa, he says. Food stalls run by the Bengali Club here offer snacks and the authentic roshogolla.
But it is not just the eatables; the celebrations offer an opportunity to showcase Bengali culture too. Says Sutapa Choudhury from Chittaranjan Park, “My son Pranay was born and brought up in north India. Visits to Kolkata are rare. So I really look forward to the pujo as an occasion to imbibe our values in him.”
This Bengali hub has about 10 pandals in the neighbourhood, the Navapalli Puja Samity in Pocket 40 Central Park being one of them.
“The pandal is crafted out of hard paper/card board by artists from Medinipur in West Bengal,” says Mitali Das, member of the samity’s executive body.
The USP of this pandal can be said to be the three-day langar where bhog is offered to any and everybody who visits.
“While on Saptami and Navami it is the traditional khichri and subzi, there is Bengali pulav on Ashtami,” Das adds.
The CR Park pandals also offer a variety of traditional Bengali dishes.
It is the ancient tale of Lord Rama presented in the dance-drama style and Delhi has had a rich tradition of Ram Lila celebrations. In fact, the Ram Lila ground has been hosting the famous Ram Lila since the time of last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.
Over the years, the number of groups has swelled. Delhi’s umbrella body Ram Lila Mahasangh has about 750-odd member organisations, of which there are four-five bigger ones that vie for attention with huge sets, massive entry gates, eateries’ stalls, not to mention the giant wheels.
Into its 86th year of celebrations, Shri Dharmik Leela Committee, Subhash Maidan, has been a popular draw every year. “People throng in large numbers here as we offer great performance, costume, presentation, style and light effects. A major attraction is Janak Bazar, having an array of traditional old Delhi chaat,” says press secretary Ravi Jain.
For another group, Shree Ram Leela Committee, Indra Prastha Vistaar, the USP can be said to be burning of an additional demon — representing the current issue. “We conduct an opinion poll and one of the four subjects is selected. This year, the subjects are ‘Hatyare Maa Baap’ (for female foeticide), inflation, terrorism and bikers (chain snatching, road rage and even those throwing bombs (Mehrauli style),” says Suresh Bindal of the committee, which has been organising Ram Lila since 1997.
An ‘off beat’ addition to Ram Lila recently has been ‘dandiya beats’.
While IP Extension has been into dandiya celebrations for the last four years, one of the Ram Lilas on the Red Fort lawns had it on the first day.
All said and done, the presentations may change every year, what remains unchanged is the message: triumph of good over evil.
It’s that time of the year again when Gujaratis come together for Navratri celebrations marked by garba, dandia and raas, all traditional dance forms. Dancing during Navratri is dedicated to the Mother, who nurtures life on earth. Garbi or the earthen pot is symbolic of the earth. The dancers, both male and female attired in traditional dresses, go about in a circular fashion around the garba kept in the centre.
The Delhi Gujarati Samaj is the oldest group in Delhi to organise the Navratri gathering — this is the 108th year — at the Gujarati School in Civil Lines. Informs president of the Shri Delhi Gujarat Samaj Jagdip Rana, “Our community people have been around for more than a century now. This is the biggest occasion for all of us to come together.”
The USP of this celebration is that garba and dandiya are performed to only traditional tunes/songs. The other place where similar traditional songs and dances are practised is Janakpuri’s Shri Kachch Kadwa Patidar Samaj at Raghu Nagar (near Janak cinema).
There are about 10-12 other groups across the capital organising garba/dandiya festivities, including a few housing societies with sizable Gujarati households. These include celebrations at Gujarat Vihar (off Vikas Marg), Gujarat Apartments (Peetam Pura) and at Kirti Nagar. These are, however, community events with no or little commerce involved.