BANGALORE : As the first drumbeats heralding the arrival of Ma Durga can be heard around different parts of Bangalore, cultural associations and neighbourhood committees prepare themselves for five days of festivities in the city. It is an occasion for the substantial Bengali population in the city (pegged to be at approximately 3 lakh) to come together and celebrate and mill around food stalls showcasing different kinds of cuisine, enjoy dance performances, musical evenings and more.
Craftsmanship at its best
Durga Puja in Bangalore aims to be authentic in terms of its images and decoration, bringing artists and craftsman from Bengal to create impressive pandals. Says Santanu Mukherjee, general secretary of the Socio Cultural Association, Indiranagar, which has been organising Durga Puja for the past 46 years, “Most of the well established Pujas in Bangalore have their protimas (idols) built by artisans who come to Bangalore from Kumartuli, a potter’s colony. They set up their base in Cox Town and build nearly 40 idols of the goddess.” He also describes how heritage artiste Tarun Pal has been building protimas for the Indiranagar association since its inception.
This is also the time when the artisans combine traditional and modern designs to create novel decorations. The Durga Puja at Jayamahal, which is celebrating its 60th year, is showcasing a rather novel Egyptian theme this time which is complete with pyramids and a sphinx, while the Ulsoor Bengali Association Puja is following a more traditional style that is inspired by the terracotta temples of the Bankura district in West Bengal.
The social event of the season
“Unlike Kolkata, where Durga Puja is experienced very differently with scores of small pandals dotting every street corner and people entering and exiting pandals to see their craftsmanship, we aim to make Durga Puja an event to meet and greet friends and participate in the ceremonies as well as the fun,” says Dilip Maitra, president of the Bengalee Association, Bangalore, which organises the oldest Puja in the city that is held at the RBANMS grounds. “Our Puja is more a social activity than a religious activity and is a meeting place for people. Everyone who comes here spends at least two to three hours here as there is something for everyone.”
“Our Durga Puja committee has been associated with nearly four generations of different families who have been with us since the beginning,” says Himadri Nandi, secretary of the Jayamahal Sarbojonin Durga Puja. “Thus the oldest first generation members would be in their nineties, while the youngest fourth generation members, who help with distributing the bhog, are barely into their teens,” he says. Dilip Maitra of the Bengalee Association also voices a similar sentiment. “From the senior committee members to their young children, everyone is involved in the Puja,” he says.
Every Puja in Bangalore boasts of an impressive food court where numerous competitively priced food stalls showcasing different kinds of street food are set up. These include big brands as well as local players specialising in Bengali sweets and specialties. The treats on offer range from chhole kulcha to biryanis, kathi rolls to fish fries, momos to chilli chicken and specialist fish and seafood stalls. “As per tradition, Bengalis do not cook during the five days of Durga Puja and while the day time bhog takes care of lunch, dinner is usually a more fun mix-and-match affair where people choose their favoured cuisine from the various stalls on display,” says Santanu Mukherjee. Large organisations like the Ulsoor Bengalee Association have the infrastructure in place to provide the traditional bhog of khichdi to 2,000-4,000 people.
Another interesting facet of Durga Puja food across the city is a special food event called Anandamela where ladies associated with the puja bring different kinds of home-cooked specialties and sell them at the venue, thus providing visitors with an alternative to the regular street food.
Cultural events like Rabindrasangeet performances, rock band nights, plays and dance performances put up by the committee members and their families make sure that the evenings are enlivened with activities. “In order to celebrate our 60th year, we have got famous artistes from Calcutta including some very unique dancers on stilts as well as our entire crew of dhakis (traditional drummers),” says Himadri Nandi. While the organisers at the Bengali Association at Ulsoor also have cultural programmes put up by committee members, big names like Calcutta-based modern folk band Fakira also figure in their schedule. Across the city, different pujas boast of star-studded performers like singer Monali Thakur and Kunal Ganjawala at the Sarjapur Outer Ring Road Bengali Association Durga Puja and Electronic City Cultural Association Durga Puja.
Rabindrasangeet and Bengali songs and recitation apart, the event reaches out to a larger audience - both old, young and across communities by having rock band nights, Arati competitions, games and Dandiya nights on Dashami/Dussera thus incorporating the true spirit of the festival.
Our Top 5 Durga Pujas
Bengalee Association Durga Puja, RBANMs (Exhibition) Ground, St. Johns Road (Off Commercial Street) - Opposite Ajanta Theatre
Jayamahal Sarbojonin Durga Puja, Jayamahal Ladies Club Ground, Adjacent to Jayamahal Park
Socio Cultural Association Durga Puja Indiranagar
BBMP Baskeball Ground , 9th Cross, Indiranagar 1st Stage
Sarjapur Outer Ring Road Association Durga Puja
Sarjapur Outer Ring Road Bengali Association - Total Mall in Outer Ring Road
Sarathi Koramangala Durga Puja
Muni Reddy Kalayana Mantapa,6th Block, 80 Ft Road , Koramangala, Opp. BMP Park & Near Koramangala Post Office