Perhaps for the first time in the history of Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal, a pandal in Kolkata is taking pride in calling itself “pet-friendly” and being partial towards visitors bringing their pets.
In fact, from last Sunday until Wednesday night, the pandal of Bidhan Sarani Atlas Club in north Kolkata remained open only to those eager for an outing with their pets. Starting Thursday, the place would be open to all but priority would still be given to those bringing their pets.
“This year, only those bringing their pets would be allowed close to the idols. The others will have to watch from a little distance. The idea is to send a clear message to the society, that we need to be nice to animals, particularly street dogs,” Biswajit Ghosh, general secretary of Bidhan Sarani Atlas Club, told The Hindu.
For this year’s puja at the club, there is no idol of the demon. He is instead depicted in a painting, shown as an evil biker who has overrun some puppies. “That’s what we want to convey — that the roads belong to the dogs. Roads are where they are born and roads are their source of joy. Do human beings understand how heart-breaking it is for dogs to see their little ones crushed under the wheels?” Mr. Ghosh said.
The pandal was inaugurated last Sunday by the dog squad of Kolkata, comprising two German Shepherds and two Labradors, even though organisers insisted that they were leaning more favourably towards local dogs. “The idea came from the artist Sayak Raj, who has been making our idols for three years now. We liked the idea because during the lockdown, we got to see, first hand, the plight of street dogs who were going hungry,” Mr. Ghosh said.
For the benefit of those bringing pets along, the pandal has a special entrance that is reserved only for them along with VIPs, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. The response has been overwhelming so far. Standing in front of the idols, visitors have not only been posing with their own pets but also with those of others. On Tuesday evening—since the organisers insisted that the pandal was not just dog-friendly but pet-friendly— a lady brought along her cat; but the animal, scared as it was, went missing before it was traced by volunteers.
“The idea is to send a clear message to the society, that we need to be nice to animals, particularly street dogs” Biswajit GhoshGeneral secretary of Bidhan Sarani Atlas Club