It’s that time of the year again when cotton candy clouds dot the skies, the strong fragrance of Shiuli hangs in the air, the kaash sways gently in the light breeze while the beats of the Dhaak becomes the background score of our existence. Yes Durga Pujo is right round the corner!
Soon the streets will be filled with pandal hopping men and women preening in their brand new clothes, imposing pandals hosting larger than life Durga Protima resplendent in all its fineries, gastronomical delight spread out on the streets, while the streets dress up too in LEDs and ‘alponas’. This festival is no less in size and scale than the well-known crowd pulling carnival of Brazil.
Durga Pujo has emerged from the strongholds of the zamindar into the masses and has slowly grown from Baroyari to Sarbojonin Pujo. As the city erupts in celebrations, everyone comes out to mingle and partake in the festivities of ushering in Ma Durga and spending time with her for the next few days.
Though there are voices that say that Pujo is becoming only about competing to be the grandest of pandals and Protima and the spirit of simplicity is getting lost in the wave of flamboyance and grandiosity. While millions go starving in our country, money flows like a stream during Pujo.
Yet isn’t it a fact that the magnificence that is showcased employs thousands of artists and artisans. Their creative genius would never have seen the light of day had it not been for the Durga Pujo. For many artists this is the only livelihood and they prepare for it for the whole year round. Imagine their pride when the artistic wizardry wins not just accolades but also tourist from all over the world.
With the deluge of crowd, the eclectic Bengal Street Food gets a fresh breather and with that the vendors too get a shot of oxygen for an entire year. The income during this season helps him look after his family for the year until the next Durga Pujo.
It’s like Ma is blessing one and all with Plenty – Plenty in mind, body, spirit and wealth. As the mind and body satiates in the sights and sounds the spirit is awakened too. The spirit of community, the spirit of brotherhood, the spirit that keeps the soul from disintegrating. We forget our differences and come together to prepare Bhog for Ma that is distributed amongst all in the community. What better way to foster brotherhood and friendship if not cooking for one another.
The spirit of Durga Pujo is just that, feeding the mind and spirit through brotherhood. This is one festival that is celebrated irrespective of religious beliefs, promoting mutual respect and equal opportunity for all. Durga Pujo was never about the ritual though it is an intrinsic part of it as it fosters coming together. Coming together to offer prayers through anjali, coming together for bodhon, when the ladies prepare Ma as she leaves for her heavenly abode.
It is not just celebrating homecoming of Ma, but also the homecoming of all those who have lost their way in petty jealousies, religious differences, arrogance and whataboutery. It’s a time when we recognise and celebrate that humanity is all about Kindred Sprits.