Kolkata, Oct 21: Making a departure, prominent Durga Puja committees this year have modelled their pandals on the famous structures found across the country, compared to past years when aesthetically-designed mandaps were the rule. Singhi Park Sarbojanin Durga Puja, one of the biggest crowd-pullers, this time designed its pandal after the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple of Madurai.
"In the rat race of theme pujas, we made a difference by holding the mirror to the heritage structures of the country. We are sticking to the Shabeki (traditional) style of Devi Aradhana (paying our obeisance)," joint secretary of Singhi Park Bhaskar Nandi said. While the Meenakshi Temple is decorated with sculptures of Hindu deities made of granite, here the deities will be thermocol prototypes. Nandi insists they do not in any way detract from the original look and appear stunning, "almost like the original."
The puja committee is also sticking to the idol-making tradition of a 23-foot Ekchalapattern of Durga image crafted by famous Kumartuli artisan Mohan Bansi Rudra Pal. Kumartuli Park in north Kolkata's dingy lanes off Chitpur recreated a marble Durga temple of Gujarat blending Gujarati and Bengali architectural styles. There are religious motifs from Akshardham and other temples, which will be arranged side by side with Bengal's temple terracotta style prevalent in south Bengal districts, the puja organisers said. "It is rather a fusion art," Debashis Bose, the pandal artist, said.
A team of folk artistes from Gujarat will perform on one side of the stage before the main open air temple, while another folk group from Bengal simultaneously performs at another stage on the other side, he said.
Another big puja in the south, Ballygunge Cultural Association, has brought alive the rural landscape of Rajasthan with typical props like bandhini sarees, paintings, wooden horses and peacocks. The pandal is a Rajasthani mud-sand house with thatched roof where dancers and folk singers from that state are scheduled to perform during the five-day extravaganza. A BCA spokesman says artist Goutam Basu is behind the whole concept. The club has continued to rely on Chandannagar as far as illuminating the pandal is concerned.
"It has been our constant endeavour to support the now struggling illumination industry of Chandannagar," Tapas Mukherjee, joint secretary of the puja committee, said. Bidding to outdo rival neighbour Singhi Park, senior West Bengal minister Subrata Mukherjee's puja, Ekdalia Evergreen, another must-see for pandal-hoppers, has recreated the Sripuram Lakshinarayani temple.
"The Vellore edifice, which is mostly made of gold, has been replicated in full, and from a distance you can't make out the real from the replica," a puja committee spokesman said. Charting a separate course, the 'Mangalam-Bondhusree' Club of Behala has set its sight across the border in Bangladesh making the colorful art found in rickshaws in Dhaka as its theme. Most rickshaws in Dhaka have folklores and film stories depicted onto them through paintings, Bhabatosh Sutar, the artist, said on the pandal designed in the shape of a rickshaw.