Now this is home territory. Central Calcutta with its incessant honking and claustrophobic lanes may not be to everyone's taste but I have lived here long enough to sieve the character from the chaos. Durga Puja here is no less of an occasion here and the pandal makers here just will not be outdone by others.
First up, the oddly named Mohammad Ali Park pandal. Actually I take that back. In Bengal, it is not that odd. To have a park instituted in the name of a Muslim host one of the most prominent pandals for the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. Despite many a attempt to prove otherwise via fake news and sustained hate promotion, it will stay that way.
The theme as may be guessed from the pictures was Africa. They actually had a live exotic bird inside one corner of the pandal.
The image of the Goddess herself was one quite distinct. A very tribal looking goddess with close resemblance to Mother Earth taking on the demon of pollution/industrialization personified as Mahisasura.
A very unique theme and executed with passion and detail.
Then comes the College Street Puja Pandal. Derived from what I believe is an Hungarian palace, it had a stately presence at the edge of the pool which headlines the geography of College Square. However the famous roshogollas at Putiram's with their sweet spongy heavenliness continue their business as usual of bringing unedited smiles on anyone's face, Puja or no Puja.
College Street also happens to be the world's largest second hand book market and once a year thanks to the 4-5 days of the Puja, Bengalis mob something else other than books on College Street.
I don't even know the name of this Pandal which nearly made me jump out of the auto-rickshaw I was in... in sheer visual shock.
This was smack on Mahatma Gandhi Road running through the heart of the city connecting the two massive rail-heads of Sealdah and Howrah. I daresay that no one passing by could have not looked at it. And the heart of the city might have skipped a beat or two.
I feel that they may have involved or idealized Govinda and his 90s movies in selecting the colour combinations.
All things considered, it really "stood out" and that in my opinion was the aim of every Puja Pandal anyway. Everyone tries it but very few achieve it. This one did... by means fair or fluorescent foul.
The next pandal on show is the Entally Market Pandal.
The pictures probably do not do any justice to the beauty of the pandal.
It was really early morning, i.e. even-the-alarm-cock-is-asleep AM when we stepped into this pandal.
No crowds, no competition - only the powerful call of the conch, the dhaki's insistent drum beats and exquisite craftsmanship to create these Rajasthani themed version of the Goddess and her family.
Still early early morning and even-the-alarm-cock-is-asleep'o'clock is when we move to the next pandal, the Santosh Mitra Square one.
Central Calcutta, as I said before, is the Florida of all lanes claustrophic. It is the Promised Land where all less than 20 feet wide, persecuted by heavy traffic lanes have found their way to.
They continue to be persecuted by heavy traffic. But they also offer a genuinely decent canvas for changing pandal lights to paint on.
And then to discover the spaceship was a bit of a surprise. The mellow lights on the way in had given no indication that this was suddenly turn Predator on me and launch into alien invasion mode.
|Master Chief has arrived!|
Yet the idol and her extended family were of a very traditional style. Seems like the aliens like to keep the religious bit of their life uncomplicated and by the book. A combination of an eerie spaceship commanded by Halo's Master Chief and the comforting grace of a towering Durga within it - a combination to be found only inside a Bengali mind's fevered imagination - had found physical realization with very remarkable degree of finish quality in both.
The Force of the Chandeliers continued to be strong. In the South, in the North, in the Central, in the outskirts - everyone wanted chandeliers and everyone got them. Some, like the one in the Mullick Bazaar pandal seen below, went a fair way in making the mood of the pandal.
The last of the Central Calcutta pandals that I will share images from is the Taltala Puja Pandal, an across the road hop from Entally Market. While I knew of many famous pandal names, this one flew under the radar somehow. I'll let the images do the talking below but rest assured, I was quite stunned one particular evening, to literally stumble upon this one, while on a mundane mission to buy tea leaves from Entally.
[These pictures are from the Durga Puja pandals, temporary structures of magnificent complexity, of 2015.