While students from all over the city were busy enjoying Durga Puja, 25 students from South Point High School and M. P. Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School had a different role to play. They hopped to around 100 pandals throughout the length and breadth of Kolkata in order to judge M P Birla Foundation Puja Utkarsha Samman 2012.
On Shasthi and Saptami the student judges were divided into five teams and they spread across the city to find out the best Durga puja pandal, best idol and the pandal with best ambiance. The results were declared on Ashtami. While Suruchi Sangha bagged the best Durga Puja Pandal award, the best Durga idol award went to Barisha Club and the best ambiance award went to Naktala Udayan Sangha. Along with the winners Netaji Jatiya Sebadal, Tollygunge, received the appreciation certificate for best idol. The appreciation certificate for best pandal went to Tridhara Sammilani; while Tala Barowari Durgotsab bagged the appreciation certificate for best ambiance.
All the student judges belonged to class IX and class XI and were chosen through a rigorous screening process. “To begin with the class teachers nominated the students who had to do a project on Durga puja and also face an interview board in order to get selected as a judge for M P Birla Foundation Puja Utkarsha Samman 2012. After the selection was over the students then attended some formal and informal workshops so that they knew what to look for when they went pandal-hopping as judges and how they should do it,” said Rupa Sanyal Bhattacharya, principal of South Point High School.
One such workshop was organized on October 14, which was addressed by sculptor Bimal Kundu, Indian Purana and mythology research scholar Purba Sengupta and secretary of state school education department Arnab Roy. While Roy spoke on how to judge the puja pandal ambiance highlighting factors like proper crowd management, taking care of noise pollution, fire prevention and sanitation arrangements, Sengupta explained the mythology behind Durga Puja and how even during the ancient times people were aware of the benefits of preserving the environment. Explaining to the students how Durga Puja converts the entire city into an art gallery for four days, Kundu helped the students understand how to adjudge the aesthetics of the idol.
The student judges moved around the pandals in school uniform and marked every puja in their questionnaire sheet. Later the marks were collated by the computer to arrive at the result. “What made us happy is that every student judge took their responsibility seriously. Of course they enjoyed the attention showered on them by the puja organiseres but did not forget their duty. It is our way of helping our students understand our culture and also learn how to be socially and environmentally responsible in the process,” Sanyal Bhattacharya said.
Late Srimati Priyamvada Birla, Chairperson of the M P Birla Group, introduced, in 1999, the M P Birla Foundation Puja Utkarsh Samman, a unique award scheme involving students, to highlight the cultural and social relevance of Durga Puja in Bengal. She felt the Samman would make our young citizens aware of the finer aspects of the Puja and inculcate in them the values of our culture and heritage. This will, at the same time, give an opportunity to honour the sculptors, designers and Puja organizers for their creativity and ingenuity. The Samman is a tribute to the creative genius of Bengal.
The main award for the Best Idol and Pandal will be given to the sculptor and designer concerned, respectively, with recognition awards to the two Puja committees concerned and the pandal decorator/executing agency concerned as well. The award for the Best Ambience will go to the Puja committee concerned only. The Samman, comprising cash, gold chain and locket, angavastra, Certificate of Excellence and the M P Birla Award Trophy, will be handed over to the respective recipients at a grand ceremony on July 4 2013, the birth anniversary of late Shri M P Birla.