2016 Pandal Hopping in Twin Cities: to leave a mark in minds

Report by Insha Zarine Sayeed and Kanhu Charan Gouda

The Durga Puja has begun its show. It seems that it has left no avenue of regret for the people of the city of temples and of the millennium city. It’s the time when devotees in both the twin cities move out to get glimpses of their ‘Durga Maa’ residing in her alluring home, the ‘Pandal’- puja pandals. In fact, all puja organisers in various corners of the cities have left no effort down to design the pandal with such grace and decor that it matches with the expectations of the devotees and also at times pars their imagination capacities. The devotees with each year expects more to look forward to in the next year with much grandeur. Hence, the time of the year has arrived when people are all set to plan out their course of ‘Pandal Hopping.’ Although various pandals have been constructed with tremendous pains and efforts, but it’s obvious that in Bhubaneswar, the Sahid Nagar puja pandal, the old station puja pandal, the Nayapalli puja pandal and the Rasulgarh puja pandal have emerged to be the eye-catchers, and in Cuttack, adding an extra fervor to the festive occasion along with pandals and idols of Maa Durga, the welcome gates and arches have also emerged out as crowd pullers with its exuberance and uniqueness. The Badambadi-Shankarpur puja committee, the Tulasipur puja committee and also the Malgodown puja committee, the Khan Nagar puja committee are the eye-catchers here.

At the city of temples in Odisha, apart from huge beautiful pandals the lightning effect has also made its contribution towards beautifying the traditional pandals, thus all pandals in the Bhubaneswar are witnessing huge mobs since the day of Shashti which is marked as the 6th day of the Puja ritual. Bhubaneswar is experiencing a severe rush in Pandal Hopping among the Odiyas as to which pandal to be visited first and which pandal ranks at the top on the basis of décor and grandeur. This time the pandals are decked up with unique themes. A total of 180 pandals have been calculated which are need to be visited by the devotees. Out of these 180, there are some unique ones which offer to give a social message to the people on disability and environment to substance abuse. But there are some which would be noticed as a replica of temples and heritage sites like every year.

Beginning with the Sahid Nagar puja Committee, this time it has introduced a pandal with a theme belonging to the Swaminarayan temple in Ahmedabad, Gujarat with five gates and 60 individual structures put at various places. For this around 40 artisans from Kolkata were engaged for execution. The puja committee organizers here have also made necessary arrangements such as that of putting a special queue and reserved gates for entries and exits for the elderly and the physically disabled visitors. Apart from that it has also added ‘Chandi Medha’ to the idols of Maa this time. This is the second marquee in Bhubaneswar which has such a unique structure and the total amount of Silver used to complete this structure mounts to 2.5 quintal. The height of the idol is 20ft and its 18ft-wide coming to a total cost of Rs 2 crore. The contribution of silver to the idols of Maa has been made by the Odisha’s most renowned jewelry brand, the Khimji Jewelers. A total of Rs 25lakh has been incurred out of which an amount of Rs 4lakh has been incurred on the light work. This puja committee has also planned out to lend a donation of Rs 50,000 to the Army Welfare Fun Battle Casualties. The arrangements for contributions by the devotees towards this donation has been made by placing a hundi at the puja mandap in which the visitors can donate their liked amount. Apart from this direct contributions can also be made for which bank accounts are made. Lastly for safety and security amidst this huge crowd here, 100 special police officers and 200 volunteers including women have been deployed, also ambulance arrangements with the para-medical staff have also been prepared from beforehand to face any eventuality or any such contingency situations.

At Nayapalli, the Nayapalli puja committee and adapted the theme of the Janaki Temple of Mithila, Nepal. The entire pandal spans around 80ft in height and 120ft in width. The total cost incurred is about Rs 30-35lakh. Around 70 workers and artisans heading from Odisha and West Bengal were engaged into its execution since two months. This time here, the medha is constructed with copper and palm leaves. It is designed keeping in mind the concept of worshipping Goddess Sita. Also to mark hope for peace between India and Pakistan, the orgainzers have lit an oil lamp during the festive day and evening. Lastly the committee conducts a Sodasa Puja, a 16-days rituals which had commenced on Sept 23 and will be concluding on the day of Vijay Dashami on Oct 11.

Creating a replica of the Kingdom of Mahishmati’s palace from the blockbuster movie Bahubali, the Sarbajanina Durga Puja Samiti at the Old station provides another unique design to the devotees. The height of the pandal is 36 feet and width is 120 feet. This puja committee is taken to be one of the oldest committee engaged in making of Puja pandal in Bhubaneswar from the past 60 years. Over the years the committee has been able to create a unique identification among its crowd for its uniqueness. This time also the committee has come up with Chandi Medha like before. The pandal walls are created keeping in mind the movie scenes of Bahubali. The famous designer of the Odiya Film Industry, Subash Jena has let out his imagination and sketched out the entire design of the pandal seen in Old Station and for this a total of Rs 40 lakh has been invested. This Puja Samiti is the first to introduce the concept of ‘Chandi Medha’ in Bhubaneswar. As a newness to its tradition, this time it has inculcated 750 grams of gold in its ‘Chandi Medha’. The Durga Idol has been structured by the artist heading from Cuttack named Rajendra Muduli.

The next in cue for crowd puling is the Rasulgarh puja pandal where Maa Durga is dressed up in ‘Pata’ saree this time. It has cancelled its tradition of burning the Ravana effigy as a part of its awareness drive on pollution. Also posters discouraging the consumption of liquor are also put up in premises. The idol stands out as an exception having an entirely look of glass, mirrors and bangles thus giving it a palatial look. Looking at the entrance of the city, the puja here holds a strategic value in terms of crowd and vehicular management. Another spectacular unique feature about the pandals here which are 80ft high is that they are not the replica of any monument or temple rather these giant pandals are the imaginations of the artisans formed in a concrete look. Around 16 CCTVs have been installed as a safety and security measure. The entire look of the area is one like that of Meena Bazaar in the city during the festival. A total of 65 workers brought in from Midnapur, West Bengal contributed their day and nights in making the Torana ready before the festival hit the city. The committee has already made a record of incurring the highest budget this year and is further planning to make a Silver Jubliee by next year with more grand scale Durga Puja celebrations.

Coming to the Millennium city in Odisha, Cuttack, here the Badambadi-Shankarpur puja organizing committee has transformed into the ISCON temple of Mayapur as its welcome arch. Then the Tualsipur puja organizing committee has attempted to showcase the Nandi Bull temple in Karnataka along with glimpse of the 11ft high idol of Lord Shiva. Apart from religious places, historical monuments are also depicted in such pandals of Cuttack in the form of welcome gates, one being the Malgodown puja committee which has attempted to transform into a replica of the Jal Mahal in Rajasthan. Although there are breakout of fights, attacks between Pakistan and India witnessing tough times, durga puja this year has come out to be a symbol of hostility and peace. In Cuttack, the Khan Nagar puja committee is paying homage to Indian army with the construction of a 60ft high welcome arch having a replication of the life of soldiers on borders. The pandal hoppers here will observe the LoC replete with weaponry as well as jeeps and fireworks to portray an image of the firing that takes place across borders. Besides, a special Shaheed Manch is also established near the welcome arch paying tribute to the martyrs of Uri attacks. Here the photos of the martyrs are also displayed along with a replica of the Amar Jawan Jyoti. The Shaheed Manch and the Amar Jawan Jyoti are ought to be the eye-catchers of most of the visitors this year. Further plans of the organizing committee is also to distribute medicinal plant saplings as a mark of environment protection.

Thus, the Puja this year seem to be extraordinarily different as it’s evident from the themes taken up by the puja committees. From adequate traffic management to security, everything is put in place from days in advance. True to the sense, rains did play as a spoilsport thus creating hindrances for the visitors and further showers are also expected to lash both the twin cities till utmost Oct 12, nevertheless, the devotees are least interested to stay back at home because of the weather situations. They are all decked up in glory to grace the presence of Maa Durga and have fun in pandal hopping in the season of celebrations.