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Delhi celebrates Puja centenary
Published on 21 Sep. 2009 11:25 PM IST
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The economic downturn has taken some glitter off the Durga Puja this year, the centenary year, in the capital. Enthusiasm and a peaceful run-up to the festivities, unlike last year which was marred by bomb blasts, though make up for it. The afternoon sun beats down on the dilapidated compound of Chandralok Cinema in a far corner of Chittaranjan Park, residential neighbourhood, in the capital. Manik Pal, a clay artisan from Krishnanagar in West Bengal, has just finished making his 16th idol inside a makeshift tent crammed with clay moulds of the goddess and her four children. When installed per religious tradition, they will be worshipped for four days by the Bengali community across the country Sep 26-29. Pal has sold four idols. Recession has taken its toll on his business. The idols are priced between Rs.10,000 and Rs.50,000. “I have been forced to reduce the price of idols because the Durga Puja organisers are not willing to pay more. But the prices of clay and other accessories like ‘shola (thermocol)’, glue, mirrors, zari, sequins, coir rope, ornaments and even the silk textiles have risen,” Pal told IANS in the capital Sunday. The artisan uses clay from Kolkata and Punjab. “One tractor of clay from Punjab costs Rs.7,000 and I required nearly 10 tractors of clay. The clay that I brought from Kolkata is cheaper at Rs.2,000,” said Pal, who belongs to a family of artisans. The craftsman, who uses eco-friendly inputs like natural colours, is not sure whether he will be able to come back next year. “The owner might sell the space. Prime property in the capital is always up for grabs,” said Pal, who has been camping in CR Park for three months with his crew of six. According to Pal, two types of images - white oriental and traditional ‘aat chaala (rural Bengal style)’ - are in demand this year. “No fancy material, the Puja samitis want intricate terracotta carvings on the idols and the frames,” Pal said. “The mood, however, is optimistic and people are upbeat unlike last year, when bomb blasts before the Puja dampened spirits. The enthusiasm makes up for the downturn and the slash in Puja budgets,” Dipayan Mazumdar, vice-president of the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja Samiti, which is heralding a century of celebrations this year, told IANS. Most of the Pujas have cut down on their entertainment budgets by at least 30 percent, but the core festivities and rituals have not been touched, Samir Banerjee, secretary of G-K-II Puja Samiti, told IANS. “Star performers from Kolkata and Mumbai, who charged Rs.100,000 and more are charging nearly 25 percent less. Most of the pujas have roped in local performers,” he said. Banerjee said all the four major Durga Pujas in Chittaranjan Park - the Mela Ground Puja, B Block, K Block and the Shiv Mandir - have reduced their expenditure. “The downturn has forced us to change the nature of entertainment programmes so that we can connect to the masses and yet keep the purse smaller,” Shuvendu Mazumdar, one of the organising honchos of the Shipra Sun City Puja, told IANS. As most of the national capital region (NCR) pujas are funded by corporate bodies, Shipra Sun City near Indirapuram in the east of the national capital region and its adjacent technology and private residential complexes had to knock more doors for money, Amitabh Mazumdar, CEO of Allied Healthsciences, a member of the Shipra Sun City Puja Committee, told IANS. Shipra Sun City has one of the largest cluster of 600 Bengali families. However, the historic Kashmere Gate Puja has increased its outlay. “We raise funds by personal donation. People who donated Rs.10,000 last year gave us Rs.15,000. This is our centenary year,” Dipayan Mazumdar said. The Kashmere Gate Puja has taken several novel initiatives to spread the centenary message. On Sunday morning, it organised “Prabhat Pheri” or morning procession in CR Park, to let people know. “Our Puja is green. We will donate the used flowers to an NGO to make perfumes. The idols are being made of eco-friendly ‘Khodi’ or chalk clay and vegetable dyes that will dissolve in water,” Mazumdar said. Durga Puja was first celebrated in Delhi in 1910 by ritually consecrating the “mangal ghat”, the symbol of the “devi”. The idol puja started in 1912 and the first idol was purchased from Kashi.

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