Kolkata Goes Digital To Celebrate Durga Puja

  • 3 min read

Durga Puja is one of the biggest community festival which brings together people from different caste, creed and religion. As stated by Sangeet Natak Academy –

Durga Puja of Kolkata is an epitome of Bengali pride!  During the festival, Kolkata becomes the cultural and geographical heart of the national and worldwide celebrations of the Durga Puja.

Kolkata comes up with more than 3000 Pandals. Every pandal has a message and communicates the same in the most beautiful and innovative way. Pandal hopping is one of the rituals and it goes till wee hours of the morning. Millions of people are on road every single day, celebrating festival going one pandal to another, enjoying delicious food items from various stalls across the city, shopping artefacts, wearing new cloths bought specially for this year’s Puja.

Durga Puja is a beautiful live example of cohabitation.

No surprise that Durga Puja of Kolkata has been nominated for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) status for the year 2020. I am sure it will pass all the criteria.

This year’s Durga Puja in Kolkata was different – after all its not Normal world anymore and the famous Durga Puja of Kolkata also went Digital in New Normal world, all thanks to the covid19 pandemic.

Kolkata was getting ready even this year for Puja same way, with some regulations to maintain social distancing (one of the biggest and almost impossible thing to do in Puja) amongst other measures to be taken by authorities but on the second day (out of 9 day's celebration) only, images of crowd breaking rules went viral on social media. What followed next day is – Kolkata High Court’s order which declared all Puja pandals “No Entry Zones”.

Immediately after the high court order, various committees who are a part of the Forum for Durgotsav jointly tied up with tech firms. Most of Pujas were planned to stream online through apps and social media. Now there was no need to go out, wear mask and maintain social distancing. Everyone could stay home, enjoy festivities online and take 360 degrees virtual view of Puja Pandal and craftmanship.

Though there were many applications, I took virtual tour of one pandal using www.thepuja.app. Check this out on your smart phone if its still on. It was really amazing!

For all those who were celebrating Puja at home in their own way, there was “Utsav App” which not only facilitated the virtual view of best puja from Kolkata, West Bengal, India and also other countries but also invited people to share their story of – how they were celebrating puja, and participate in various competition like Puja Makeup, Puja food etc.

My first Puja celebration in Kolkata was in year 2005. As its done traditionally, I went out pandal hopping whole night. Though no one can match the way Kolkata celebrates Puja but even visiting a few Puja pandals in Mumbai every year has been a ritual which I always looked forward to. Of course, this year I could not even think of any such celebration, but the way Kolkata made it happening even in these times, is really amazing. For me celebration this year was – 360 degrees virtual view of Puja pandals and food – started with my favourite Kolkata Biryani! You can read the interesting story behind "Kolkata Biryani" in my blog "How a potato made its place in the Meaty Delicacy, Biryani" on my website - watsay.in

Thisyear my favorite was pandal by Behala Barisha Club which narrated the plight of millions of lockdown hit migrant workers. Traditional idol of Goddess Durga was replaced with Migrant mother. The migrant mother was shown with her children – the shirtless child in her arms representing Kartik, Laxmi and Saraswati carrying an owl and swan respectively and a pot-bellied child with an elephant head signifying Ganesha. A halo surrounded the mother and children with 10 hands – a traditional motif of Goddess Durga.

Its not the first time when a Puja pandal chose a theme based on prevailing issue in the society. Its been a tradition and this year is no different, at least in this way.



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