Countdown for Durga Puja begins with hopes for a restriction-free celebration

This year, Durga Puja begins September-end. 

This year, Durga Puja begins September-end.  | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The countdown for Durga Puja — West Bengal’s largest festival — began this week with social media posts reminding people on Thursday that it was only 100 days away. While most of these 100 days will belong to the monsoon season, it will also be the crucial period for all the preparation and planning to take place.

This year, Durga Puja begins September-end and, unless a new wave of the pandemic threatens the State or capital Kolkata, it will be the first time after a long gap of two years that the festival will be conducted without fear and restrictions. Idol-makers of Kumartuli are once again busy, almost like pre-pandemic days, while neighbourhood puja committees are planning how to make the celebrations as big as possible.

“More than anything else, what makes Durga Puja special this year is the culture heritage tag it got from UNESCO (in December 2021). It is a matter of great delight for us. What will be the theme of our puja, what will the idols look like this year — all these things we will decide shortly, but what’s certain the moment is that we are going to increase our budget,” Tapan Dasgupta, president of the Golf Green puja committee and also the local councillor.

“For each of the past two years we spent only ₹12-13 lakh, but this year we are looking at spending around ₹30 lakh,” said Mr. Dasgupta of his neighbourhood puja, which is 41 years old and has won several awards during this period.

Until just a couple of months ago, several idol-makers and neighbourhoods were contemplating COVID-19 as their theme, but at the moment the pandemic already appears to be a distant memory and they appear to have dropped the idea of depicting the fight against the virus.

The 57-year-old puja in Bhabanipur, for example, has decided to have music as its theme this year, with tributes being paid specially to Lata Mangeshkar, Sandhya Mukherjee and Bappi Lahiri — all three died this year.

“We have planned to pay homage to the legends and the puja pavilion and decorations and also the idol of Goddess Durga will be conceptualised accordingly. We have planned live events resonating with the theme. We will display rare pictures of her — same for Sandhya Mukherjee and Bappi Lahiri,” said Shubhankar Roychoudhury, general secretary of the Bhowanipur committee.

“After two years, we are likely to have a restriction-free Durga Puja — less of masks and sanitisers and more of festivities. No more digital pushpanjali (offering of flowers to the goddess), no more e-bhog (online ordering of community lunch), but instead sangeet anjali (offering of music),” Mr. Roychoudhury said.

For the past few months, well-known idol-maker Indrajit Paul was debating what should be the theme of his creations this year — he was alternating between COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine — but now he has dropped all ideas of getting creative and instead focus on getting idols ready on time because he has suddenly got big orders.

“Every year I end up making 11-12 sets of idols, and orders usually start coming in only from the day of rath yatra (this year on July 1). But this year orders have been coming from one month before. I already got five orders, including a big one, and more are bound to come in the coming weeks. I have no time to think of themes,” Mr. Pal said.

He added: “The only downside this year is that everything is suddenly very expensive. Many neighbourhoods may find it difficult to celebrate on a grand scale, even though they still have time to mobilise resources. Otherwise, people seem to be excited — the joy that had gone missing seems to have come back.”

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2022 9:07:29 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/countdown-for-durga-puja-begins-with-hopes-for-a-restriction-free-celebration/article65564296.ece