As the number of pandals for Durga Puja goes up year after year, it is quite obvious that the various samitis are innovating, adding something unique to their celebrations. The most visible change every time would be the theme of the pandals. The Hyderabad Kalibari Temple at Sainikpuri, which has erected a grand pandal this year, decided to go with Navadurga idols representing nine different forms of the Goddess. The style, according to organisers, is famous in Garia, Kolkata and is being tried for the first time in South India.
Shankar Karmakar, general secretary of Kalibari Samity, explains, “With the Mahishasura Mardhini at the centre, there will be four idols of Durga on both sides. The nine forms of Durga are: Saliputri, Bramhacharini, Chandr-ghanta, Kushmananda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalratri, Mahagauri, Shiddidatri.” The main idol, that of Mahishasura Mardhini, is about 10ft tall. The rest are 5 ft each. All of them were sculpted in Hyderabad itself but by sculptors from Kolkata. According to Shankar, sculptor Jagobandhu Pal from Kolkata has put in the best of his experience and expertise to chisel this year’s idol.
Sumit Sen, general secretary of the Hyderabad Bangalee Samity, says the unique feature of their 14ft tall Durga idol is its eyes. “We have the Goddess with Batasha eyes, which basically means very big eyes. Every year, we try something different in the theme of the idol. Our sculptors from Kumartuli in Kolkata this year have made a somewhat angry-faced Goddess whereas last year’s idol was with a smiling face,” Sen adds.
It is not just the majestic pandals but also the variety in food stalls and cultural programs throughout the week-long celebrations that attract one and all. While many have adapted themselves, some still prefer the traditional way as they believe in the need to sustain traditions. “We have brought a number of artistes from Kolkata’s well-known groups and also tried to mix with the culture of the south. For some programs, we have invited people from Chennai, Karnataka and Mumbai also but mainly, we focus on spreading the traditions of Kolkata and keeping them alive,” explains Karmakar of the Kalibari Samity. According to him, these kind of celebrations away from Bengal should also be a platform for promotion of not very popular yet good artistes from Bengal. “We have stuck to Rupak De, a traditional folk artist; singer Biswajit Acharya who would pay tributes to Rajesh Khanna, Jagruti Shango-a drama group, and also Sulogna Roy, who performs Rabindra Sangeet in Odissi style,” adds Kamarkar. However, according to him, the limelight would be on Jay Dhak, a group of eight men from a small village called Kathi in Kolkata. “Many organisers try the local alternative for dhak, but for us, puja is incomplete without the traditional dhak from Bengal,” he says. Similarly, admitting the need to promote the culture and tradition of Bengal, Sumit Sen of HBS says, “we have a number of programs by members of our samity. Apart from that, we have invited singer Biswarup Rudra and Sudeshna Rudra from Kolkata.”
Sudeshna Rudra, a student of Vishwa Bharati Shantiniketan and a well-known Rabindra Sangeet artist, says, “I will not be experimenting with Rabindra Sangeet because Tagore himself has done all the experiments with it. But I would be presenting it in my own way, a bit different and in a very interactive manner. When I interact with audience, I would find Tagore himself among the crowd listening to me. I will have the keyboard, percussion etc along with traditional tabla, pakawaj khol and dhol.” Her husband, Biswarup Rudra, a well-known singer, will sing old melodies of legendary Bengali singers like Shyamal Mitra, Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Talat Mahmood, Sachin Dev Burman etc.