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Didi’s men turn to the Devi

kolkata Updated: Sep 22, 2016 19:22 IST
Rushati Mukherjee

Naktala Udayan Sangha, the puja that manages to pull huge crowds every year. (Ramkrishna Samanta/ HT Photo)

They are the people who rule Bengal. Their decisions shape the present and the future. Their schedules are filled to the minute every day. But when it comes to celebrating Bengal’s biggest festival, not even the headache of running the government can get in the way. From supporting the budgets of their chosen community Pujas to ensuring that organisers get the best artists and craftsmen, leaders and ministers of the ruling party are doing it all.

Trinamool MP Sujit Bose’s strong association with the glitzy Puja of Sreebhumi Sporting Club is well known. “Our Puja is famous for dressing the goddess in ornaments made of precious metal and gemstones,” said Dibyendu Goswami, the general secretary. “We are continuing this tradition. All ornaments will be made of gold valued at more than Rs 1 crore.” The pandal will be a recreation of the Jagannath temple at Puri. “Puri is a beloved place for all Bengalis. We love the crowds, the sea and, of course, the temple,” said Goswami. “It is only fitting that Ma Durga should be housed in this dham.” The entire pandal is being made out of iron, rather than bamboo, to recreate the effect of the stone sculptures on the temple.

Visitors to this pandal also have a sweet treat waiting for them. “The specialty of Puri is its khaja,” said Ghosh, “The sweets are distributed as prasad at the temple. We have brought craftsmen from Orissa to prepare authentic khaja for visitors.”

Tribal art at Tridhara Sammilani (Ramkrishna Samanta/ HT Photo)
Tribal art at Tridhara Sammilani (Ramkrishna Samanta/ HT Photo)
An artist working with bamboo at Chetla Agrani Club (Ramkrishna Samanta/ HT Photo)
Statues being made at Ekdalia Evergreen (Ramkrishna Samanta/ HT Photo)

Education minister and Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee is associated with Naktala Udayan Sangha, the puja that manages to pull huge crowds every year. Artist Susanta Paul has come up with a unique theme this time as well. “Our Puja will celebrate the power or force inside us that we call God,” he says. “The pandal will be a visual journey through a ‘spaceless space.’ At the end of it, visitors will witness the Goddess.” The journey is a physical representation of the one we must all take to find God within ourselves. The idol is made of clay and the artist himself will paint on the eyes and other features of Maa Durga. “In today’s turbulent times, we’re looking at the idea of introspection,” said Bappa Dasgupta, general secretary of the Puja committee. The theme music has been composed by Pandit Mallar Ghosh while the song has been composed by Surajit Chatterjee of Bhumi.

Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee is associated with Ekdalia Evergreen Club’s Durga Puja for since its inception. Every year, the organizers recreate a famous Indian temple for the pandal. 2016 is no exception. “We had a long discussion with Subrata da,” said Goutam Mukherjee, secretary of the committee, “In the end, we settled on the Meenakshi temple of Madurai.” Artist Chandan Paria from Midnapore is creating the pandal, while the idol has been designed by Sanatan Rudra Pal. “We’re building the pandal with fiberglass, thermocol and bamboo ,” said convenor Rajpal Singh. The idol will be dressed in the style seen at Meenakshi Temple. A massive traditional chandelier from Jaipur will be the highlight of the decor.

Housing minister Arup Biswas is associated with Suruchi Sangha for many years. The club hosts one of the most renowned Pujas of South Kolkata. In keeping with current social issues, the theme for 2016 is world peace and unity and the pandal will resemble a Bhutanese monastery. Wood, bamboo, plaster of Paris and cloth will be used to recreate the look of the original structure. Special lights will highlight numerous Buddhist symbols and flags that will grace the pandal. And, all of this will be painstakingly made by hand. The idol will be placed at the heart of the monastery. Artist Subrata Banerjee came up with the idea. The budget for this Puja is Rs 30 lakh. “Jeet Gannguli will be composing this year’s theme song,” said Swarup Biswas, younger brother of the minister.

Urban development minister Bobby Hakim is a patron of Chetla Agrani Club. The Puja is known for its beautiful pandals. This year, the theme has been conceptualized by artist Bhabatosh Sutar. Named, “Bindu Gyaner Sindhu Pari, Saat Sagorer Ek Tarani,” it is a visual depiction of the art of meditation. “This is our 24th year,” said Samir Ghosh, convenor of the committee. “The artist has interpreted Ma Durga as a meditating sage. She is on a journey to discover herself and trace her connection with the universe. That is what we have tried to show.”

The pandal will also have a tall Shiva linga, made out of bamboo. Ends of the bamboos will be placed in such a way that an image of Shiva will appear and disappear depending on the angle one sees it from. “The pandal has been constructed with three special types of bamboo that grow in Assam,” said Ghosh. “We have used many materials and techniques. Cane fibres used in brooms, canes and wood have been used here,” he added. The theme music has been composed by singer Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta.

Member, mayor-in-council of Kolkata Corporation, Debashish Kumar, is associated for decades with Tridhara Sammilani which is known for its innovative themes. This year, too, the organizers have come up with an interesting idea. “Our artist, Gauranga Kuila, suggested a theme based on Adivasi hunting rituals,” said Mukul Manna, assistant general secretary of the Puja committee. “The world is witnessing continuous progress. Our lives have changed so much over time, along with our culture. Interestingly, the tribals have managed to preserve their way of life in the middle of all this,” Manna said.

The pandal will showcase tribal heritage, with buffalo heads made of clay and authentic hunting weapons used by tribes on display. “We have invited two troupes, one from Gir and another from Jhargram, to perform during the Puja,” said Manna. The theme song of this Puja has been composed by singer Abhijeet and sung by Raghab Chatterjee.

With these organisers going all-out to ensure grand success, it is apparent that Trinamool leaders are keen to make Kolkata’s favourite festival into a grand affair in the aftermath of their success in dwarfing the Opposition even further in recent months.