The theme was apparent right from the beginning- the Powai Bengali Welfare Association (PBWA) had a group of six women on motorcycles forming a convoy that escorted the clay idol of the goddess Durga all the way from Dadar to Powai at 3am on October 11.
PBWA also has its own non-governmental organisation (NGO) Mission Swayam Siddha (MSS) that gives vocational training to boost income-earning capabilities of underprivileged women.
The Powai Sarvajanin Durgotsav at Hiranandani Gardens is celebrating its tenth year of Durga Puja with this theme.
“Durga Puja should be elevated from being a religious closed-group Bengali-only event to an eclectic experience, a socio-cultural platform where people from all walks of life should participate, connect and share their experiences,” said Shantanu Sen, co-founder, PBWA.
This year, the 18-foot-tall idol and decorations have been done using mud and clay. “There is no cloth, no artificial jewellery, and this makes it very eco-friendly. When it is immersed, it will dissolve in the water without creating any residual pollution,” said Sen. “It is a traditional form of making an idol, called ‘maatir shaj’ (decoration using mud).”
The pandal housing the idol replicates the ‘Upasana Griha’ or prayer hall, built within the complex of Rabindranath Tagore’s Vishwa Bharti University, Shantiniketan. “The pandal areas will be open 24x7 for all visitors. The festival, like every year, will be celebrated with Dhunuchi Naach (traditional Bengali dance form with burning clay lamps), lunch (bhog) for nearly 8,000 people over six days, and cultural programmes during the evening,” said Prateek Bhattacharya, member, PBWA.
Under the digital India theme, a 25x10 feet LED panel has been installed to show a live feed of the processions across the world and display various audio-visual material related to themes for the festival. A free 1 GB Wifi zone will be available for all visitors at the pandal.
PBWA has adopted two villages, Kelichepada and Aluymal, located 120 kms from Mumbai. These villages have high child malnutrition rates. Apart from cleanliness drives there, the association has committed to raise Rs30 lakh for borewells and rainwater harvesting in these villages.