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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pujo 2011: Pandals & Protimas

Mahashashthi (sixth day of lunar waxing in the month of Aashvin, customary day for beginning the celebrations): The goddess's arrival. The first part of the day I just relaxed at home. In the evening I went out. I kicked off the pandal-hopping, of course, by visiting my colony's Puja pandal. They used an orange-based colour scheme for the pandal and white-based decorations for the protima (idol). I visited just one other Puja that day: the Vatican City-inspired pandal at Choturongo grounds. The pandal resembled Roman architecture, and the idol was pale-skinned and light-haired to keep with the theme. As is customary, I wore new clothes. I didn't buy too many new ones -- in our family we don't insist on new clothes for each day, and buy only if we find ones we like. The only compulsive custom is to wear new on Shashthi, the rest is, in the traditional sense, optional though almost everyone with the means opts for it.
Mahasaptami (seventh day of the same): I didn't go anywhere in the morning. I ate out for lunch (more on that later) where I met two of my friends. They were all hanging out at the Choturongo pandal and asked me to come, but that day I went out in the evening elsewhere: we took Granny to see the colony pandal where we watched some of the ongoing cultural programmes too. There's a relatively easily accessible pandal (compared to the other award-winners), the Poshchimanchol pandal, so we took Granny along to that one, which is why is took us some extra time. They had made a really imposing, golden-coloured temple and a very pretty idol, the face of which was beautifully crafted, very close to the traditional majestic face of Goddess Durga. I met one of my classmates at this pandal, which is always an added bonus.
Mahaashtami (eighth day of the same): I ate out for lunch on Ashtami too. Then I visited the Cement Park pandal. It was not themed but was pretty, decorated with grains, sand, etc. and I liked the idol. It is a unique Puja because it has it's Kumari Puja (the worship of a young girl as the goddess) on Nabami instead of the traditional Ashtami. Then I visited the Anandabihar pandal. It was a dark red-based colour scheme and a traditional idol. The whole thing was very neat and looked beautiful. In the evening I visited the Marconi Dakshinpalli pandal, which wins district- and state-level honours every time and this time was no different. Like some previous years, the honours included the Bengali TV channel 24 Ghanta's Best Puja of Burdwan District. It was also the 51st year of this Puja. They had replicated the famous Somnath Temple of Gujarat, and like every year the craftsmanship of both the pandal-makers and idol-makers was excellent. The idol was not the traditional idol, but wasn't strikingly unconventional either. It's size and beauty was impressive, but the integration into the theme was not as seamless as the previous years. The only flaws of the Marconi Puja were in comparison to it's glorious record -- independently it's hardly fit for criticism. They had even invited two real ascetics to sit on the temple foyer and do real yajna. I also passed by several small Pujas which I peeped into, for increasing my pandal-hopping count, both this day and the next. In the evening I went to the Choturongo gathering of my classmates, many of whom live near there and more come there to meet them. Choturongo is the Pujo adda place for many groups of friends as it is the locality Puja of a large number of people.
Mahanabami (ninth, obviously): Lunch out again, and I visited the most pandals this day. I visited the pandal at the Chandidas market which was inspired by Dakhineshwar temple. The red lighting inside was impressive and added to the effect, but the idols were too small. Then Mom suggested that we visit the Fuljhore pandal, right beside my school, so she drove straight there, and it was worth covering the distance. The pandal was in the shape of a giant palanquin with two giant bearers. All around there was artwork. And all this was done using construction material. There was no paint. Intricate designs, and even the whole surface of the idols, including weapons, jewellery and hair was made, and perfect expressions were crafted on the idols, without any paint. For straight hair and border lines they used small construction chips and for curly hair they used the big ones. Skin was made with sand. In the artwork all around, broken pieces of burnt clay from flower-pots were used for shapes like heads and sailboats. Pebbles were used for the gemstones in jewellery and figures in the artwork. Sand was glued on in various shapes for everything from waves to clouds. Out of all the pandals I saw, I liked this one the best, and Mom agrees with me. After Fuljhore I came back nearer home and visited the Joydev pandal which was winning awards for the past few years but was an utter disappointment this time. There was no delicate craftsmanship or well-executed theme. They called it 'Disney World' but nothing was done properly. There were just imperfect representations of cartoons. All the characters shown (imperfectly) were not even Disney characters: they included non-Disney characters like Tom & Jerry, Ben10 and Bugs Bunny. They even had manga characters like Goku and Indian cartoons like Chhota Bheem. It was like a bad dream. I hadn't expected this from Joydev: their last few pandals had been really outstanding. On Nabami too I went to hang out at Choturongo.
Bijoya Dashami (tenth lunar day): Maha or 'great' is added to the usual names of lunar days to signify that they are the Durga Puja days. For Dashami, however, the prefix Bijoya or Vijaya is used. Bijoy means 'victory', and due to the mythological background of Durga Puja, this day is specially significant of the triumph of good over evil. This is the last day of Durga Puja, when the goddess is said to return to her Heavenly Abode on Mount Kailash (the mountain is really there; creepy, huh?). Traditionally the straw and clay idols are immersed in water bodies in the evening on this day, after sindoor khela and feeding of sweets. After immersion, till Laxmi Puja, is the Bijoya period, when greetings of 'Shubho Bijoya' and sweets are exchanged and blessings are sought. Nowadays, however, the themed pandals draw huge crowds, and not only does the pandal hopping begin before Shashthi, but it also continues on and beyond Dashami. Several Puja organisers keep a smaller idol which is actually worshipped and immersed on schedule while the large decorative one is kept longer for show. Others carry out symbolic immersion, which is a compulsion in Pujas outside India where environmental norms do not make provision for the minority festival. Here, cleaning of the water after immersion is undertaken. This time, a few Pujas like the one in my colony, delayed the immersion for a day, not because of show (ours is a non-themed Puja) but because Dashami was on Thursday and journeying on Thursdays is inauspicious. Bijoya Dashami is my lunar birthday, which means that the moon was in the same phase, and it was Bijoya Dashami, when I was born, though the calendar date varies every year. So my mother cooks payesh for me on this day. Usually I watch the immersion procession of the colony pandal, click photos, etc. and then eat my ceremonial payesh, but in this case the immersion was on Ekadoshi (eleventh lunar day) and so the routine was different. Also, I visited one last pandal on Dashami which had delayed immersion (probably for show cuz it was awesome). It was the David Hare Road pandal, where the decorations were done in contrasted colours with golden sitting Buddha idols all around. The protima (idol, remember?) was made entirely out of paper, and the gods and goddesses along with their vahans (transport animals) and all the supports and idol decorations together weighed only 19 kilograms. Awesome, right? At the David Hare pandal too, I met a classmate and also a junior. Meeting schoolmates and teachers at pandals always feels nice. I, for one, anyway like meeting people from school outside.
শুভ বিজয়া!

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