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Durga puja celebrations in Kolkata

Last updated on: October 15, 2010 20:38 IST

Puja fervour peaks on Mahashtami

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Thousands thronged puja pandals in Kolkata on Friday trying to make the most of Mahashtami, the eighth day of Durga Puja, with anxious glances being cast at the sky as the weatherman forecast rain because of a deep depression in the Bay of Bengal.

Ashtami, the most auspicious day in the Durga puja calender, began with anjali, an offerings of flowers, to the goddess. People then turned out on the streets to make the most of the day before the weather forecast of light to medium showers for the metropolis came true.

The regional metrological department forecast fairly widespread rains with isolated heavy showers over the coastal districts of West Bengal till Saturday.


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Image: On Mahashtami, the most important day of the puja, devotees offer anjali, an offering of flowers, to the goddess amid the beats of the traditional dhak drums

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Will rain dampen the festive spirit?

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Organisers were a worried lot. "We are hoping that the forecast does not come true as we have spent months decorating our pandal modelled on a temple in South India," said Ashish Mukherjee, patron of a puja committee in south Kolkata.

In the more conservative north Kolkata, where images bear a traditional look, it was the same feeling of apprehension. A downpour last evening had dampened the revellers' spirits.


Image: Drummers beat drums as they dance in front of a marquee of Durga idol
Photographs: Reuters/Jayanta Shaw
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Women on top this puja season

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Using Durga puja celebrations as a pedestal, 150 rural women have showcased their empowerment as they were at the helm of celebrations at Beliaghata in Kolkata, taking care of almost everything from aesthetics of the pandal to its security. The women from Sunderbans, Lodhasoli and other parts of north Bengal, working for various self-help groups have formed the Sharad Swanirbhar Committee, which has organised the puja at Beliaghata.

The image of Goddess Durga resembles a village belle and the pandal is a recreation of a complete village, with a health centre, a community radio centre, a rainwater harvesting unit and solar lamps, where visitors are being shown how handicrafts are made.

"We are trying to show that the potential of unemployed women can be harnessed for social and economic development," Hritabroto Chowdhury, founding member of a non-governmental organisation Social Engineering and Advanced Technical Education and one of the brains behind the puja, said.


Image: A priest worships a girl dressed as goddess Durga on Kumari Puja, one of the biggest attractions of the festival
Photographs: Reuters/Jayanta Shaw
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Durga Puja goes green

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Several puja committees in Kolkata have come up with unique themes for celebrations. While one of the puja pandals in the city is fire resistant, there's another one that is based on based on the Rabindranath Tagore's famous poem Talgachh.

Another pandal in Kolakata's Hardevipur made their Durga idols in the form of Rajasthani wood puppets, blending cultures from Bengal and Rajasthan.

Talbagan, one of the popular Durga pujas in south Kolkata, went green this festive season. The decor is eco-friendly and the organisers have used waste materials to create the theme of 'Unity.'


Image: Puja pandals in Kolkata get innovative as they dabble with various decor themes to attract crowds
Photographs: Reuters/Parth Sanyal
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All that glitters is gold

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Kolkata may host the most lavish Durga puja pandals in the country complete with intricate decoration and dazzling illumination, but in Cuttack, the puja is popular for its extravagance, reflected in the gold and silver work in the pandals.

Lakhs visit the puja pandals where there is a competition among three main puja organisers crown the deities with  golden crowns. It all started a few years ago, when three organisers put up a silver tableaux or chandi medha in the pandals imparting a sparkling aura.

But gold? Nobody thought of it till the Choudhury Bazar puja committee made gold crowns for the deities in 2002 to coincide with its golden jubilee. Thereafter, the three organisers have vied with each other to give their goddess the 'golden' touch. The budget of one of the organisers this year is a whopping Rs 1 crore, the major chunk of which would be spent on making gold crowns.

Image: Kolkata is known of its extravagant puja celebrations, but pandals in Mumbai and around are fast catching up
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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