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Dying circus trade, Vasco da Gama and spices among Durga Puja themes in Kolkata

Kolkata: The dying circus industry and the miseries faced by those associated with the trade, the cut-throat competition to outpace each other and the importance of earthen vessels in a world dominated by plastics are among the various Durga Puja themes here this year.

The pandal of Belgharia’s Aryanagar Kishore Sangha, which portrays the crisis faced by the circus industry, has been designed by Kumartuli clay modeller Subal Paul.

Committee spokesperson Rintu Daw told PTI, “We wanted to showcase the miseries of the circus industry, which used to once attract millions of people.”

“We have tried to bring back the era when circuses used to be one of the biggest crowd pullers. The period from October-end to February used to be the season for circuses in the city. Sadly, it has lost its shine and people are no longer interested in going to circuses,” he said.

“We have put up a model of a clown at the entrance of the pandal with a special lighting which is reminiscent of the circus era. As you enter, a corridor leads you to an arena reminding of the circus stage where trapeze artistes used to enthral the crowd. The pandal has been decorated with jokers’ caps, ropes and swords. Overall, it gives you a real feel of a circus,” Daw said.

He said they did a lot of research since February before executing the theme. “We contacted many people, including the son of the owner of a once famous circus of Bengal, for giving the pandal a real look of a circus,” he added.

“Unfortunately, he has closed down the circus company and shifted to another profession. This mirrors the overall situation which has been portrayed in our theme. Currently, those working as clowns in the circus are hired at events for a paltry Rs 2,000 a month,” he said.

South Kolkata’s Chetla Agrani pandal, which is among the top crowd pullers, has come up with the theme ‘Je Jekhane Dariye’ (Chasing our dreams). It depicts the journey of individuals trying to outpace their rivals to reach the elusive goal of success.

“We all are competing against each other to attain success. But none of us can realise all our dreams,” the committee’s spokesperson said.

Shiv Mandir Sarbojonin Durga Puja Committee’s theme ‘agol’ (safety shield) has been depicted using environment-friendly items.

“Matir Sara (earthen plate) had been used to adorn the walls of the compound leading to the marquee where the idol has been placed. Just as one reaches the sanctum sanctorum, there is a giant earthen pitcher to make people aware of the utility of earthen vessels,” puja committee senior functionary Partha Ghosh said.

The organisers of AK Block Durga Puja Committee in the city’s Salt Lake area has made a replica of an old warehouse and decorated their pandal (marquee) with various spices.

At the same time, they have they have linked Vasco da Gama’s journey to India and beginning of trade between India and Europe through the sea.

According on Moushumi Chatterjee, one of the organisers of the puja, “When devotees enter the pandal, they will get the feel of walking into an old warehouse filled with containers and spices. From there, people will move into the marquee which houses the Durga idol.”

“Various spices such as dhaniya, jeera, gol marich, haldi, lal mirchi and biryani masala are displayed in the marquee. Different materials such as iron plates, jute, wood and plywood have been used for constructing the pandal,” she said.

She added that many people from Europe attempted to reach India by the sea but Vasco da Gama was the first to successfully do it in 1497.

“The trade route via land was already there but it was a difficult one. That has been depicted in our Durga Puja here. Vasco da Gama, after landing in Calicut, had told the then king that Indian spices were equivalent to diamonds and gold of Europe. He had landed here with four ships and all of them are depicted in the pandal,” she added.

(Published 21 October 2023, 15:42 IST)

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