To them we owe
It’s not only the enjoyment and merrymaking that counts during the Durgotsav every year but it is also the tremendous responsibility of the administration and the police to maintain safety and security throughout the state during this time of the year. Pritesh Basu talks about their preparedness involved to make Durga Puja a grand success, year after year.
Maa Go Tumi Sarbojanin Acho Hriday Jure…Maa, Ammi, Mother aki bhuli taa ki kore…" this line from a song penned by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee explains the love, affection and care of a mother towards her children all over the universe.
In all ages, mother has had an all-encompassing image for her child. She is his world, his protector and an amalgam of emotions for him. She is the epitome of sacrifice, a role model, his first expression and one with whom he shares an inexplicable bond.
Likewise, in the light of Durga Puja, vanquishing the Mahisasura corresponds with the belief of restoration of faith and the victory of good over evil.
The festivities begin from Mahalaya, marking the beginning of the "Devi-Paksha" and the end of the "Pitri-Paksha" (the Shradh or the mourning period). It is said that Goddess Durga starts her journey towards earth (to her paternal home) on the day of Mahalaya, that is, on the first day of the "Devi-Paksha". Since Goddess Durga is traditionally worshipped at spring-time, this Sharadiya (autumnal) festival is also known as Akaalbodhan (untimely invoking of the Goddess). The traditional six-day countdown to Mahasaptami starts from Mahalaya.
For years now, Durga Puja is organised in different parts of the country and abroad. Idols of Durga are sent from Kumartuli to far and wide.
Kolkata and its adjoining urban areas bear an altogether different look during the Puja. The extravaganza blurs the boundaries between faiths, religions and the secular, thus creating a unity of experiences ranging between devotional upheaval and mass revelry.
It is difficult to explain the beauty of the City of Joy during this time of the year. With the whole city lit up with twinkling lights, from Chittaranjan Avenue to Esplanade crossing to Shyambazar, Kolkata wears a dreamy look after sunset. People clad in their best dresses, soaked in the true sense of the carnivalesque spirit.
For us, it is North Kolkata and South Kolkata through which people walk for miles to enjoy the very ambience of joy and celebration and witness the excellent artworks and unique pandals along with a darshan of the deity. The safety and security of the pandal-hoppers becomes a top priority of the administration of the state.
Divided into eight divisions according to the Kolkata Police, the authorities are always on their toes to provide help and assistance to the lakhs of people who venture out on the streets on those five days.
Theme-based Pujas have gained immense popularity over the years. Puja mandaps, idols and the entire surroundings are decorated based on one particular theme. While there are many Puja organisers who still prefer the traditional way, their mandaps are sometimes constructed based on certain temples or such structures and sabeki murti (traditional form of idol) of the deity.
Now, even the manner of theme-based Pujas has changed. For example, a decade ago, major events that touched the lives of many, like a major train accident, Disneyland or a huge cargo vessel getting stuck under Howrah Bridge, used to be the themes. But now, inspiring government initiatives like Sabuj Sathi also find place. Some have also taken a different approach to present the palace of Mahesmati as shown in the film Bahubali as their Puja mandap.
Whatever the concept or the theme may be, pandal-hoppers still consider South Kolkata to be the host of the most-hyped theme-based Pujas. Suruchi Sangha, Chetla Agrani, Tridhara Sammilani and Deshapriya Park are some of the big names where lakhs of people visit the pandals every day.
Puja parikrama in South Kolkata is incomplete without a visit to Ekdalia Evergreen and Singhi Park, both known for practicing the traditional form of Puja.
Tridhara Sammilani is celebrating its 71st year and has come up with a theme on nature. Ekdalia Evergreen is celebrating its diamond jubilee this year and is coming up with a mandap on the lines of fibre based on Chennai's Astha Lakshmi Temple. The sabeki murti of Devi Durga and her entourage will be clad in original Benarasi saree. According to the Puja organisers, this is the first time when a complete mandap in getting constructed with fibre. Moreover, another attraction inside the Puja mandap will be the huge chandelier. While approaching the Puja mandap one can also enjoy the lighting on the lines of Disneyland.
North Kolkata still has its own charm with most Pujas being organised in the traditional form. Lakhs of people visit Bagbazar Sarbajanin, College Square, Kumartuli Sarbajanin, Kumartuli Park Sarbajanin, Ahiritiola and Md Ali Park.
It may be mentioned that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was the president of the Durga Puja Committee of Bagbazar Sarbajanin in 1938 and 1939 respectively.
Distribution of kichuri bhog at Bagbazar and most of the Puja mandaps are major attractions.
Bonedibari Pujo is another important aspect of North Kolkata.
There are many households where the goddess is worshipped in thakurdalans (courtyards) that once again bring back the nostalgia of the Puja during the days of the Rajas and Maharajas.
College Square Sarbajanin this year celebrates its 70th year and is constructing their pandal based on a temple in Rajasthan.
With huge structures of Puja mandaps in place, Kumartuli artists are busy giving the finishing touches to the idols, braving the intermittent showers.
Lakhs of people are going through their last minute shopping and preparations and the markets are thronging with business from morning till late night.
Police, fire fighters, civic body officials and employees of power utilities are working day and night to ensure that the Puja days pass off without any untoward incident. There are many norms that all Puja organisers need to follow to ensure that no one gets inconvenienced and at the same time safety and security of the pandal-hoppers are maintained.
There are a total of 2,600 Pujas in Kolkata and around 703 in Howrah.
"Aasaan", the online platform that was introduced last year by the Kolkata Police to help Puja organisers get necessary permissions to organise the Puja has become immensely successful. The Kolkata Police, both centrally as well as in local levels, have made all Puja organisers aware of the norms mainly keeping enough space for pandal hoppers to move in and out of a mandap, installation of CCTV cameras, maintaining fire fighting arrangements, and the like.
In Howrah, the police have urged Puja organisers not to construct any overhead structures across a road as this year there could be rainfall during the Puja and such structures may lead to accidents. At the same time, the single-window system to get permission for Durga Puja has also been brought in place.
There will be elaborate traffic arrangements in both Kolkata and Howrah. All senior police officers will be on the road during the Puja days. Watch towers will be set up at certain locations. There will be bamboo barricades along pavements so that pedestrians are off the main roads and there is no traffic congestion.
In Howrah, steps will be taken to ensure that residents are able to take their vehicles up to their houses and car passes will be allocated to them based on their applications. Puja guide maps, batches for children will be distributed and police assistance booths will be set up to help pandal-hoppers.
With the countdown beginning for the grand festival, the city is warming up to another year's grandeur and nostalgia.