The city which is known to have a greater number of festivals than months in a year, no longer follows the Bengali calendar when it comes to Durga Puja. The idea is to prolong the celebrations.
While the Puja is still a week away, cultural events are underway in Kolkata, with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurating three popular pandals consecutively on Thursday alone. The official unveiling of the puja season coincided with the lifting of the dark clouds that had gathered over the city during the past few days, causing frequent rains.
State Government offices —as also schools and colleges — are to close for the 11-day puja holidays only next Friday, but the mood is already celebratory, what with the festival receiving recognition from the UNESCO and being held, after two long years, without the fear of the virus.
An organisation called massArt, in association with UNESCO and the British Council is already facilitating pandal-hopping for select people with the aim of popularising the concept of the pandal outside of Bengal and even India.
“Durga Puja is an integration of art and architecture experienced through a space we call pandals. It is also about recycling; it is an event that generates employment. We are trying to get neighbourhood pujas together and take them to the next level. We need to work together,” said architect and art curator Sayantan Maitra, vice-president of massArt.
“This year we have curated a set of 22 pandals [spread across the city] to show to the world the diversity of design and art that is Durga Puja,” Mr. Maitra said, adding that the people in his organisation were cultural impresarios “who could help spread the word about the city”.
According to him, around nine crore people pour out on the streets of Kolkata during Durga Puja to have a look at the installations, and that he would ideally like to have as many foreigners come to the city during the festival. “We have the potential to be as popular as the Burning Man festival in America or the Rio carnival,” he said.
For a Kolkatan, however, Durga Puja is a way of life, UNESCO recognition or no recognition; it is an event they wait for all year, and considering that this year — unlike in 2020 and 2021 — there are no restrictions to be followed, the City of Joy appears to be preparing to live up to the sobriquet.
“It is also about recycling; it is an event that generates employment”Sayantan MaitraVice-president of massArt