New Delhi In one of the pandals or marquees, a jovial-looking Goddess Durga poses as a dancer; in another, she comes out of an oyster; in several others she looks regal in a traditional sari. Retelling myths and marrying history with tradition are the dominant themes of the Durga Puja pandals in the city this time around.
The festivities began Tuesday with Sasthi, as per the Hindu calender, and security too has been beefed up in the pandal areas. Temporary barricades have been put up to manage long queues of devotees.
But, in the end it is idol of Durga and her four children - Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, Kartikeya - and the demon Mahisasura that the devotees want to see and marvel at.
"Every year, our main challenge is not to organise the festivities, but to think of a theme that would be relevant and different from others. That would help us to stand out," Subir Datta, general secretary, Cooperative Society Puja Committee in K Block of south Delhi's Chittaranjan Park said.
The marquee has white and blue drapes, with aquatic creatures adorning the sides and the backdrop of the main stage. It looks as if marine life has come alive in the pandal!
A huge oyster-like structure is on the main stage and Maa Durga, looking resplendent in a white sari, comes out of it.
"Conch comes from the ocean, so we thought we would tell a tale of Maa Durga using ocean as a vehicle this time. So, what we have portrayed is that she is a pearl coming out of an oyster," Datta said.
While the festival is also a celebration of woman power, this theme is missing from many pandals. Instead, what many have done is taken a leaf from the past and contemporarised it.
The orgaisers of the Mela Ground committee in C.R. Park have recreated a "Natya Mandir" - the courtyard of an erstwhile maharajas and the decoration of the idols has been inspired by Rajasthani culture.
So, there is a dancing Maa Durga in an orange sari, joined by her four children in an equally jovial mood.
"We wanted to marry the past with tradition. These courtyards were once an important part of our culture, so we chose this theme," Pranab Chaudhuri, cultural representative, Mela Ground committee said.
They have been organising puja for the past 39 years and completely abide by eco-friendly rules.
"We use only husk, mud and vegetable paints. We try to minimise the pollution level (at the time of immersion) as much as we can," he added.
There are around 400 puja samitis in Delhi.
A little away from these two pandals is Durgotsab in Greater Kailash II. The organisers have tried to replicate a 250-year old temple.
"We have tried to replicate the design of a 1750's temple," Samir Banerjee, general secretary, Durgotsab said.
However, the committee has massively cut down on the budget this time. Last year, it had replicated the grandeur of Greek and Mughal architecture, Banerjee said, addding this time, the money collected would be donated for the victims of the Sep 4 floods in the Kashmir Valley that killed nearly 300 people, rendered thousands homeless and left the state's economy in shambles.
"In whatever little way we can contribute, we are doing. We have also offered stall to a Kashmiri shopkeeper without any fee," he pointed out.
Banerjee also mentioned that they would be live streaming the festivities to friends and family abroad who miss out on the grandeur and fervour of Durga Puja in Delhi.
According to Hindu scriptures, Goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children descends to the earth each year to visit her parents home to slay Mahisasura, the symbol of evil. Her victory is celebrated as an ode to Durga, the embodiment of 'shakti' or women power.
The four-day services and celebrations end Saturday with the immersion of the idols in the rivers and water bodies.