The noise is deafening, security measures are hit, traffic is on the cusp of a riot and eve teasers have a field day, all in the name of festive spirit. If you had a house with a leaking roof, a weak door and no fence, would you address these problems first or throw a barbecue party for your neighbours?
Odisha is a state that has one of the richest cultural heritages in all of India. As the famous saying goes, we celebrate almost 13 festivals in the span of 12 months. From the Makar Sankranti to Karthik Purnima, we celebrate a festival almost every month. With the autumn season almost on the verge of getting over and winter knocking at the door, the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, famous for holding the 2nd grandest celebration of the 9 day festival after Kolkata , didn’t disappoint the devotees who had traveled hundreds of kilometres to be a part of this celebration.
Cuttack , this time boasted of 155 Durga Puja mandaps or as we call it here Pandals or Medhas most of which had the silver filigree works all around them. Choudhry Bazaar and Chauliaganj , went a step further and added a cherry on top by introducing the Gold Crowns that simply enhanced the beauty and aura of the place. Gates at Khan Nagar, Badambadi, Jobra and Chandni chowk boasted of such lovely gates. Sheikh Bazaar, Alisha Bazaar etc didn’t disappoint either. With fabulous decoration, huge crowds pouring out at every place security was tight enough to avoid any kind of mishaps. Bhubaneswar, too joined this party with mandaps at Rajmahal, Nayapalli, Shahid Nagar, and several other places presented amazingly beautiful Idols of Goddess Durga and welcomed people from different places with a lot of warmth.
Over the years the grandeur has progressed geometrically. With the help of corporate funding, crores of rupees are pumped into setting up this temporary extravaganza. The important question which follows is; what next? What when everything is over and done with? When the money is spent, pandals dismantled, idols are drowned and people crawl back to their day to day accustomed lives.
Next year the scale will shoot up and since Durga Puja has become more of a rivalry between various communities to exhibit their opulence, and grandness, no one is going to leave a stone unturned in creating a spectacle that will be remembered as long as the mandap stands. The following year will repeat the same.
It’s not that people should not hold Puja ceremonies. People look forward to this part of the year anxiously. Festive spirit is always required in a city. It’s an escape from the tedious routine of everyday life. Fairs, cultural programs and live performances spruce up the revelry. Discounts fly around, hawkers get the best footfall in a year, and artisans and craftsmen get to demonstrate their craft. But can’t the hawkers get more vending zones which would support them during less than festive days? What about the artists and sculptors? Do they get recognition or any sort of patronage? At what cost are these festivities held? After it’s all over we go back to the same city. To a city, which would’ve grown by a foot, if only someone beautified it instead of a makeshift arrangement of bamboo, cloth and hard paper.
There are pockets in this part of the world where certain slums are inhabitable, yet people live there. Where, any one school under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan would benefit immensely from the same corporate funding. Parts of our city do not have street lights and they are not far away from a street where lights are aplenty during Puja. Truth is, we are the Siddharth Mallyas of the world, where our actions are a watered version of tweeting about calendar girls while our airline is getting grilled- left, right and centre.
Some Glimpses of this year’s Puja.
(Photos- Bikash Guru)
Special feature by Soumitra Patnaik/ Nishant Dash.