Traditional Durga puja transforming into urban festival

Traditional Durga puja transforming into urban festival

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Today:-Kolkata, Oct-With catchy themes and concepts often reaching great artistic heights and big corporate involvement adding to the glitter, fun and fiesta, the contemporary Durga puja in Kolkata has evolved from what it was decades back.

It now embraces those on the margins, and has truly become “glocal” – with both local and global elements – but at the same time the umbilical cord with heritage remains intact.

Most of the 4,000 plus marquees in Kolkata and its suburbs are a far cry from the simpler ‘bonedi bari’ (traditional family celebrations), ‘barowari’ (by communities or groups of people) and ‘sarbojanin’ (for all) pujas that began around 300 years ago.

They now reflect global affairs, serve as a platform to engage artists from abroad and strengthen diaspora links, provide an interface for politicos to propagate ideologies – all the while maintaining connect with masses, be it offline or online.

“It is becoming inclusive with transgenders and sex workers getting to participate. Thanks to the themes and increasing links with diaspora via social media, it is global in thought but local in action,” eminent Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri told IANS.

The most visible aspect of the puja is undoubtedly the standout art and decor.

“It is getting better and better. Each marquee or idol is a piece of art. And look at the way our local craftsmen have been designing these opulent and international theme pujas. It is a positive thing for the artists.

“The social structure has changed and the result is pujas have become sophisticated,” he said.

This year, some of the key themes include India-Bangladesh enclave swap, Nepal earthquake and GM foods.

Such is the influence of the festival that, according to author and specialist on the art and cultural history of modern and contemporary India, Tapati Guha-Thakurta, the “urban festival” has metamorphosed into a “template” for all other festivals and has “secularised” over the decades.

Allaying concerns about dilution of culture, Bhaduri said there is nothing to worry because the deity worship continues in the same format, notwithstanding the variety in celebrations.

“In fact, now there is a healthy amalgamation of Western ideas and Indian culture,” Bhaduri said.
IANS-By Sahana Ghosh

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