The Durga Puja pandal of Bharat Chakra in Dum Dum Park has drawn devotees’ ire for depicting farmers’ protests and using a collage of sandals to portray a stampede in a police lathi charge. But the woke puja committee has decided to brazen it out or so it seems from what club members said.
The BJP has objected to the use of chappals in a part of the open pandal, serving a legal notice to the club, pointing out the slippers as a motif hurt worshippers’ sentiments.
Club members said the slippers were 60 ft away from the pandal, where the idol was kept. “We are not deviating from the design and removing the shoes for false propaganda with political intentions. We have used slippers to symbolise farmers’ movement over years, not one period,” said club member Pratik Chowdhury.
Leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari on Saturday termed it “a heinous act that insulted Maa Durga in the name of artistic liberty”. He urged the chief secretary and home secretary to get the shoes removed before Shashthi.
Bhowanipore by-election candidate Priyanka Tibrewal wrote to the chief justice of Calcutta High Court, claiming the shoes were used “to humiliate the religious sentiment of many who share sincere affiliation to Hinduism”.
BJP’s Bengal media cell head Saptashi Chowdhury said they had urged Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to look into this.
In another instance showcasing the challenged intellect of the woke, master chefs at ITC Royal Bengal and Sonar Bangla have crafted a grand structure of the Durga idol with gourmet chocolate — without the foggiest clue that the murti is supposed to be of the divine mother. Ten chefs of the company are “proud” they used 35 kg of chocolate to give the structure with an ombre finish, taking 40 days or 353 man-hours to build it with the woke cooks reimagining the gods and goddesses and the fight of good over evil as their fight against coronavirus.
Complete with the pandal base, figurines and floral decoration, the woke organisers of this puja claim it is their tribute to all those who helped make the situation better with knowledge, strength and resilience.
The 3.5 ft edible chocolate sculpture depicts the homecoming of Durga who is seen as the supreme power with vaccine as her weapon, ready to win over the coronavirus, one of the woke organisers said, seeking pride in the act. “Besides Durga, we can see Lord Ganesha as a scientist representing wisdom; Lakshmi symbolising economic progress through new opportunities; Saraswati symbolising the forgotten hobbies that people rediscovered during the pandemic; Mahishasur as the virus and Lord Shiva as the ultimate power who is overseeing all of Durga’s actions and providing guidance. Further, the feisty lion here represents the brave front line workers while the Indian defence forces are represented by Lord Kartikeya,” the organiser said.
When asked whether the mother is supposed to be eaten, the organisers accused the reporter of being a “Sanghi”.
In yet another case of total absence of religiosity, woke organisers of the south Kolkata neighbourhood of Behala, the Barisha Club Durga Puja, have taken a stand against the NRC. The puja looks at how the original Dhakeshwari Durga idol of Dhaka was brought over to Kolkata during the partition, effectively turning the goddess into a refugee.
This puja showcases an idol of a mother with four young children, two girls and two boys, inside a metal cage, surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers and signage identifying one side of the pandal as India and another as Bangladesh. The metaphor is obvious — this is Durga and her children, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik, in a detention camp.
There are at least two other pujas by the woke, one of them in another south Kolkata neighbourhood, Naktala, where the theme is the partition.
Why take an overt political stand? Deboprasad Bose from Barisha Club clarifies, “We did not start out looking for a political issue. Since 2018, we have focused on social issues and problems faced by the common man as the theme for our puja. We have faced opposition for doing so as well. When we focused on the dangers of 5G technology to the environment, one of our sponsors, a telecom company, pulled out, but we stuck to our stance. Even last year when we focused on the plight of migrant labourers, we were accused of targeting the central government. This year, we chose to focus on the problem of people who have been forcibly turned out of their homes. That is the real issue — making people stateless. NRC is just a small part of that larger problem.”
“Theme puja” is an old concept of Bengal. It started a couple of decades after independence when Hinduism started receding from the everyday life of the local society, getting confined to Kali baris and Hari sabhas. Some puja organisers even portray recent instances of rape that shook the whole state or even the country, but these depictions were mostly limited to moving lights designed by artistes of Chandannagar (Chandannagore). These themes have now started affecting even the main murti of the puja.
The woke translate all their deracinated ideas, including multiculturalism, into the design of the idol and the puja arena. In 2019, a club in Beliaghata of Kolkata had played azan in the middle of their puja.
The malaise is slowly but surely spreading to other parts of the country where Bengalis live. In Sector 110, Noida, during a cultural programme held to observe the occasion in 2019, the organisers played “Eid Mubarak” in the middle of Hindu devotional performances.
The same year, following were the idols of Balco Market Durga Puja, made of metal scraps and other waste.
The puja committee above boasts of quite a few journalists among the organisers. Perhaps under their influence, leading national newspapers based in Delhi appreciated this puja.