Kolkata, October 18
Hardship faced by migrant labourers during the COVID-19 induced lockdown is the guiding theme of many Durga Puja committees in West Bengal for the five-day festival starting from October 22.
Some other Puja committees have shown the coronavirus as demon Mahisasura to be destroyed by the Goddess while others have paid tribute to COVID-19 warriors.
Lakhs of migrant labourers returned to their native places in West Bengal from different parts of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Durga Puja is the biggest festival in Bengal but the festival is relatively low key this year due to the pandemic and economic recession triggered by lockdown.
Many Durga Puja organisers have still pitched for theme-based puja like in past years on contemporary issues, designing pandal decoration, illumination and interiors – a trend prevalent for the past 20 years.
Taking up the migrant issue Barisha Club, in the southern fringes of the city, has installed the idol of a woman pausing for a while on the road trail with a baby in her lap and two children.
“She is our Durga. Eight other hands are seen on the background. She epitomises the migrant labourers’ pain, cries, suffering and resilience when business activities came to nil and road communication stopped. But still, the migrant labourers did not stay back. They boarded vehicles on their own, walked thousands of miles, collapsed but again stood up.
This is our tribute to the migrants,” a puja committee spokesman said.
At Naktala Udayan Sangha, a truck has been put up near the marquee with models of migrant labourers, scrambling to get on board the vehicle.
“Our pandal is called waves. It reflects the waves of returning migrants from different corners. We have employed migrant labourers from different districts to portray the theme,” puja committee office-bearer Anjan Das said.
The return of migrant labourers on various modes of transport – on cycle, truck – or by walking miles, has been depicted through mural works and models in the pandal of Kestopur Prafullakanon Paschim Adhibasibrindo, Secretary Ranjit Chakraborty said.
“Our pandal will be inaugurated by the migrants who are working round the clock since past one month and during inauguration the entire locality will be plunged into darkness for a while to show respect to the migrants who had died during return,” Chakraborty said.
The battle of covid warriors against the pathogen also features in pandals.
At Salt Lake’s A K Block, models of vendors, phuchka seller, vegetable sellers are put up on the two sides of pandal while Durga has been depicted as a rustic woman.
“Our pandal is themed on the hardships faced by these people, who work in big cities to eke out living from their faraway homes in villages. This is our way of remembering their hardships during the lockdown,” a spokesman of the puja committee Raja Banik said.
The battle of covid warriors and slaying of ‘corona sur’ also features in several pujas in the state.
Sahid Colony Sarbojonin Durgotsab in Sodepur, a popular puja in North 24 Parganas district, has themed this year’s festivity on COVID-19 warriors like doctors, other health workers and frontline fighters like police and other emergency services.
“We are putting up models of doctors and other essential services people as revellers will approach the pandal and there will be poster campaigns about the contribution of these people in the battle against coronavirus,” a puja committee spokesman said.
Shakti Sangha, a puja committee in Birati in northern outskirts, has placed the order for Coronasur at Kumartuli.
“Our artisan has made the asuras head look like the virus based on the images we saw on TV. The hair, ear, crown of the demon will have spikes like the virus. We all pray the goddess kills the virus after the battle,” treasurer Sudip Sau said.
A coronavirus shaped pandal has also been erected by a puja committee in Balurghat in South Dinajpur district.
“We had built pandals shaped on titanic ship, Victoria memorial in past. This year all our members wanted to make the pandal look like coronavirus as it is on top of everyone’s mind. When the virus will finally go. This pandal will also remind people the virus is still raging on and we should be on guard against it always,” a puja committee member said.
Samajsebi Sangha, a popular puja in south Kolkata, will have a stall near the pandal where a doctor will be present with medical personnel for treating any emergency and checking the temperature of people if required, a puja committee spokesman said.
At Sribhumi Sporting Club, known to depict current events through illumination, this year they will highlight the battle against COVID-19 through lighting.
“Our illumination will be far less than in past. There are fewer light gates and boards. The battle against COVID 19 will be the highlight of this years illumination,” a puja committee member said.
Many organisers are trying to spread the message of COVID-19 safety measures during the festival.
There are around 37,000 Durga pujas being organised in the state. West Bengal Chief Minister had announced a grant of Rs 50,000 to each Durga Puja committee in the state. PTI