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From Vatican to KK: Kolkata Durga puja has varied themes

Tuesday, 13 September 2022 (12:26 IST)
Kolkata: From an imaginative remake of the halcyon days of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation to a grand replica of the Vatican City, heartfelt tributes to late singer KK, and auteur Satyajit Ray’s centenary – marquees are set to woo revellers with myriad themes in Kolkata’s upcoming Durga puja carnival.

Breathtaking Maori art of New Zealand and prayers for the return of normalcy in the pandemic-devastated world are among the headline concepts the community Durga puja organisers have come up with for the October 1-5 festival – the biggest in eastern India.

A spirit of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” (the world is a family) is set to pervade the city, with marquees drawing on global themes in a year the UNESCO has inscribed the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata on its intangible cultural heritage list, that has raised hopes for a huge footfall of international tourists.

The high-profile Sreebhumi Sporting Club, known for its pompous themes, is modelling its marquee on the “Vatican City” - the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

Fascinated by the beauty of the Vatican City during a visit to Rome in 2017, club president Sujit Bose – also the West Bengal Minister for Fire and Emergency Services – decided to “bring it to the city as everyone is not lucky enough to see it with their own eyes.

“We had sent a team of workers and artists to Rome to see the Vatican so that they can build a perfect replica, said Bose.

Apart from the grand marquee, the Durga idol itself would be an eye-catcher, wrapped in 22-carat gold.

At the other end of the city, the Haridevpur Adarsha Samity is attempting to recreate a piece of Indus Valley Civilisation, that flourished from 3300 BC - five thousand years back – to 1300 BCE.

The ruins of the civilisation, noted for its urban planning and elaborate drainage and water supply systems in cities like Harappa and Maohenjo-daro, were excavated in the early 20th century.

“But we have tried to go beyond the ruins. We have sought to present the civilisation in its full bloom, through our reading of history and archaeology and, using some imagination,” said the artist Rangajit Roy.

With the “Indus river” running through the middle, the artist has attempted to showcase the livelihood, food habits and the baked brick houses of the period. At the centre would be the Great Bath, used for bathing rituals, and regarded as one of the wonders of Mohenjo-daro.

“The entire model is chiefly made of sand. We have also tried to show the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro slowly going under the water,” said Roy.

Another prime attraction for the visitors would be a boat ride on the “Indus” to see the idol.

Moving from architectural recreations to tributes, some organisers have woven their themes around World renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s (1921-1992) centenary – that hardly got the attention it deserved because of the then raging Coronavirus pandemic.

At Bidhan Abasan, various images of the Nischindipur village depicted by the master in his debut film Pather Panchali, considered a landmark in Indian cinema, would adorn the marquee. Visuals of the iconic train scene, white kansh grass (Saccharum spontaneum), cut-outs of the protagonists Apu and Durga, and of Ray himself, would be the other attractions.

Ray’s centenary is also the theme at the Hazra Udayan Sangha marquee in South Kolkata.

“We will celebrate the centenary of the versatile genius, who was a filmmaker, writer, lyricist, music composer, ad guru, painter, all rolled into one. So, our tribute will try to highlight all these aspects,” said club member Anirban Ghoshal.

To pay tributes to the late singer KK, who died of cardiac arrest hours after a performance at south Kolkata’s Nazrul Mancha on May 31 night, the Kabiraj Bagan Community Puja committee in the city’s north-east has come up with a replica of the auditorium.

“The marquee will be a replica of Nazrul Mancha. This is the best way to reminisce about the last good memory of the singer.

“The marquee will have a statue of KK performing with the LED lights simulating the night of the concert. Right at the opposite end, there will be the statue of goddess Durga,” said Ankit Jaiswal, who conceptualised the theme.

About 12 kilometers away, the Kalighat Yuva Maitry club in south Kolkata plans to showcase the tribal art form of New Zealand as practised by the Maoris. Comprising 16.5 percent of the New Zealand population, the Maoris are an indigenous Polynesian tribe, who arrived in the nation in several waves of canoe voyages between roughly 1320 and 1350.

“We are presenting the art of Maori wood carving. This art form is intrinsic to their culture. They follow distinctive patterns, which we are trying to bring out,” said artist Siddhartha.

The lining designs seen on the faces of the Maoris, and the tattoos they love to draw on their bodies, would be featured in the marquee.

With the world devastated by the pandemic since 2020, to one puja committee, the festival is the right occasion to rekindle the light of hope that things would return to normalcy soon.

Displaying a global mindset, the New Alipur Suruchi Sangha, one of the big bang puja organisers in the city, has conceptualised the theme of the world becoming serene again, free from the scourge of Coronavirus.

“Our theme is woven around the hope that the world will be as before, with the virus gone,” said one of the organisers. (UNI)

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