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Manipur violence to tribute to nude models, Bengal's Durga Puja has it all

Kolkata: Theme-based Durga Puja pandals are not new in Kolkata. Like every year, Puja organisers have come up with some eye-catching themes to attract people. From highlighting the lives of nude models to praying for peace in violence-hit Manipur, each pandal is unique in itself.

Jagat Mukherjee Park Puja Committee in north Kolkata is paying tribute to nude models through its theme this year. It is also honouring 65-year-old Phulkumari Das, who has been a live nude model for art college students for over four decades.

Through its theme, the puja committee is honouring her fraternity and trying to spread awareness among people that nude models should not be looked down upon and nude modeling be treated as just another profession.

Known as ‘Phuldi’ in the artist community, Das has modelled for various stalwarts over the years.

According to the organisers, she started modelling for artists at the Government College of Art and Craft from the tender age of 16.

Later, she became an inspiration for many men and women who decided to follow her path. Such models have an immense contribution in the making of an artist and Phuldi is one of them, pandal artist Parimal Pal said.

“As doctors need corpses to study the internal organs of human beings, these models help students learn about figure and portraits,” Pal added.

“Many people might have seen her in paintings, but not her in real life. Society looks down upon them. They come from poor families. Our effort is to honour them and their work,” Pal said.

Another puja committee in north Kolkata is paying tribute to Sukumar Ray, one of the icons of Bengali children’s literature, known for his famous ‘Abol Tabol’.

The organisers of Hatibagan Nabinpally Durga Puja are commemorating the writer’s 100th death anniversary and the centenary year of the publication of Abol Tabol as the theme. Houses in the entire neighbourhood have been painted to represent the theme.

Sukumar Ray is the father of film maestro Satyajit Ray.

Dipto Ghosh, spokesperson of Nabin Pally Durga Puja Committee said, “This is the centenary year of publication of Abol Tabol (a collection of nonsense rhymes in Bengali) and also the death centenary of its creator. The reason behind choosing this theme is to honour both the creation and the creator.”

Ray had died just nine days before Abol Tabol was published for the first time in 1923. While the book was published on September 19, the writer died on September 10.

On the other hand, a Durga Puja committee in Salt Lake has themed its pandal on Manipur violence.

Disturbed by the ethnic-strife in the northeastern state, the organisers of FC Block Sarbojanin Durga Puja have selected ‘Mother of Manipur’ as its theme.

“We were moved by the ethnic violence that broke out in the state on May 3 this year, followed by incidents of atrocities on women. We decided to spread the message of peace through our theme,” said Nilanjan Brahma, secretary of FC Block Sarbojanin Durga Puja.

“The pandal represents one community of Manipur, while the idol of Goddess Durga represents another. Both the communities have been represented in our puja pandal to spread the message of peace,” he said.

Tucked away in a lane opposite to Amherst Street Post Office in central Kolkata is Sitaram Ghosh Street where members of Pallir Yubak Brinda Puja Committee are organising their Durga Puja.

Through their theme ‘Uttar Sakkhi’, the organisers will capture the charm and touch of north Kolkata as it existed over 200 years ago.

Old buildings, several of which are dilapidated, stand witness to the bygone era when a major part of the mode of transport was ‘palkis’ (palanquins). This locality was once known as ‘palki para’ (palanquin neighbourhood) as palanquins carrying people used to stop at the locality for a break.

Pallir Yubak Brinda Puja Committee’s artist Abhijit Nandy said, “The story of old north Kolkata is being told through the marquee here. This particular locality off Amherst Street used to be known as ‘Palki Para’. We are trying to capture the nostalgia, love and emotions of old north Kolkata.”

Another puja committee in central Kolkata has chosen to highlight marine life.

Mechua Bajar Sarbajanin Durga Puja Samity’s theme is ‘Gobhirata’ (depth). The marquee is a replica of an old ship. One has to enter it to witness the depth of a seabed.

According to artist Sanjay Pal, the underwater landscape is being showcased in the theme. “If you visit the pandal, you will have a feeling that you are standing several feet under water in a sea,” he added.

(Published 20 October 2023, 14:44 IST)

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