A Durga puja pandal in Dwarka brings the Bengal village ambience to life through the art of Jamini Roy

“How did you get into this sari?” It was this question from an Indian child she met on a visit to Germany — who thought she had put it on like a pair of jeans or salwar kameez — that made Deepali Bose think about how easy it is for children to lose understanding of their culture through sheer unfamiliarity. Such thoughts propelled Deepali, a graduate of New Delhi’s College of Art, to launch into one of the most challenging themes for the Durga puja pandal she and other members of the Dipanwita Cultural Association in Dwarka have ever undertaken.

The idea was to give the youngsters of the area a feel for village arts of Bengal. “Durga puja to all of us has a very cosmic energy to it,” she says, but points out that “it is not really religious terminology but cultural terminology.” This is when Bengali communities settled outside of their native region seize the chance to introduce their children to the great poets and art forms of Bengal, through performances and competitions organised alongside the puja.

But Delhi is a cosmopolitan city and so these ideas are extended to the larger community of public school educated youngsters. For weeks now, the Boses’ apartment has been a camping site for Akshay, Deepanshu, Sumit, Prateesh, Indu and Simran, besides their daughter Drishty — all students of the College of Art. These young artists, some of whom are pursuing their Masters in Fine Arts and others their Bachelors, have been creating paintings either replicated from famous works of Jamini Roy (such as ‘Parvati and Ganesha’) or using his style to create new works (like the woman with a conch). The paintings are mounted and hung around the pandal. For the arch around the bedi, where the idol is placed, they have painted Kalighat Patachitra motifs, some traditional and some mixed with their own creativity. A similar arch has been readied for the stage where performances will take place.

Deepali does not call herself a practising artist but for the past three decades has been teaching fine arts, both at home and at reputed public schools of the Capital. And we know what they say about ‘once a teacher…’. She has expounded the theme of Dipanwita’s pandal starting from the village art of Kalighat Patachitra and connected it to Jamini Roy, since, she points out, “Jamini Roy is the only painter who is most influenced by Kalighat Patachitra.” Of course he distilled it into his own style, and you can’t get simpler than Roy’s lines. “He is our Picasso,” she avers.

“We are expecting around 700 people per day,” says Shamul, a Dipanwita member, who remarks that although ambitious, their budget is small compared to some other pandals in the city and the total expenditure has been limited to within Rs.36 lakhs.

Elaborating on the theme, the association’s general secretary Jayanta explains, “We called it Mrinmoyi this time, which means ‘Earthly Mother’.” That goes with the village ambience, with thatch being used as decoration around the pandal as well. Jayanta, referring to the instructions given to the idol maker Subir Pal, continues, “Typically she is portrayed as the killer of the demon (Mahishasura). This time the asura will be surrendering to her.”