Kolkata: Hopping around Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata this year could take you on a tour of Germany, Kashmir and even planets and asteroids! With budgets running into millions of rupees, organisers are set to usher in the socio-religious carnival with innovatively themed marquees, locally known as `pandals`.
Durga Puja starts Oct 2. As per police estimates, the number of pujas organised this year will be close to 2,500. While the pandals house idols of the mother goddess and her children for five days, they are attractions in themselves.
For instance, a tiny slice of Germany is going to be stowed into the familiar corner of South Kolkata`s Ekdalia Evergreen club puja, budgeted at Rs.40 lakh.
Club president and Minister Subrata Mukherjee`s efforts have led to a tie-up with the Goethe-Institut for constructing a marquee conceptualised by Germany`s eminent contemporary artist Gregor Schneider.
Housing the goddess, it has many features of Schneider`s signature work `Haus U R` (your house) blended with elements which are typically Kolkatan.
Not to be left behind, prominent Trinamool Congress legislator Arup Biswas, who organises the Suruchi Sangha Puja in New Alipore, will continue with his club`s green theme, which was earlier praised by American President Barack Obama.
With a budget of around Rs.15 lakh, the theme is Kashmir and aims to spread awareness on global warming. The interior of the marquee would have replicas of Kashmiri handicraft for which the organisers spent 45 days in the valley getting a feel of the art.
A giant `kangri` or wicker basket used for warmth at home in the Kashmir winters would also be on display.
The marquee with melting glaciers as the background will give a glimpse of life in Kashmir. From log-made thatched huts to shikaras, or house boats, and drying lakes and snowy mountains, the organisers hope to depict the essence of Kashmir. A team of Kashmiri performers will present cultural programmes.
With a budget of Rs.5 lakh, south Kolkata`s Mudiali Puja organisers hope to "illuminate the dark side of the human mind" using electrical cables.
The interiors would include Jamini Roy paintings again made of cables, with the exterior walls adorned by cable-made figures of various gods. Even the idols` ornaments are made of cables.
"When the two ends of a wire are connected, light gets switched on and darkness goes away. We want people to connect with each other so that the darkness of enmity, hatred, goes away," says Bandhan Raha, the man behind the concept.
If one wants to know how the universe was created, then the place to head is Kasba Rathtala where the puja organisers, using weaving materials, will portray the conception of the universe with Durga as the creator. The budget is close to Rs.8 lakh.
"The pandal (marquee) will be decorated with vividly coloured threads, wool and fishing nets. The interiors are made of thread and wool. Various thread pictures and paintings depicting the creation of the universe adorn the inside walls. Sounds of rainfall, thunderstorm, wailing children mixed with chants of Om playing in the background give an altogether different feeling," said Sujoy Roy, entrusted with carrying out the theme.
The Sribhumi Sporting of Northeastern Kolkata will take the spectators on a celestial journey.
While the outer side of the marquee looks like a planet, inside one will get a glimpse of the galaxy magic with host of stars and asteroids revolving around and above the idols.
North Kolkata`s Ahiritola Sarbojonin too will be weaving celestial magic, showing Durga descending from space and attacking the demon Mahishasura with a 30-foot trident.
Another famed Puja in Central Kolkata, Mohammed Ali Park, having a budget of around Rs.8 lakh, has based its theme on women`s empowerment and dedicated it to the state`s first woman chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. The organisers want to keep the details under wraps till its inauguration hopefully by Banerjee herself.