Wood-slices,pieces,chips,stone chips, umbrellas,ice picks, matches, pots,pans,shells,caps,straws,……these are but just a few examples of themes for an idol and a Pandal (just like a movie set) that you get to see at a typical Durga Puja in Kolkata.
Innovation, low cost, brilliance in design are some of the highlights of these sets.Each Pandal (set) has a different theme each year trying to outdo what they managed to do the previous year.The thinking typically begins anywhere between 3 to 5 months before the actual festival begins. The artists are conveyed the theme and the idol is (hand)made to order.
What’s more fascinating is that these make-shift sets are erected on roads, inside small streets,parks,road-intersections and every other space available in town. Narrow lanes are blocked from either ends for traffic and a Pandal is erected bang in the middle!
(Who says India is no longer tolerant?)
The Kolkata Cops do an amazing job shepherding millions of visitors in a an orderly fashion, and such a mega festival is managed extremely well by this efficient work force.Barricades are made, roads are redirected,the city is celebrating this carnival like never before every single year.
It is such a a grossly under-marketed event globally,that If showcased well, it could go on to become a global cultural icon. This has the potential to attract the global community at scale.The artistry and innovation at display is simply mind-blowing. See it to believe it. The Brazil carnival may not be a fair compare, but just to give you an idea of the splendor of colors and lights that a Durga-Puja highlights is just mesmerizing.
Essentially,at the heart of it, its just this one idol -Godess Durga , who is shown with 10 hands (for the uninitiated, that’s not a deformity, its more symbolic) and a scene where she triumphs over evil , depicted in the slain demon below her feet.The ten hands have ten different items, each symbolising dexterity ,power,and range of activity. This is but a very simplistic view,for detailed description read here.
Notice the detailing in the images below and you will realize each of them is hand-made painstakingly by obscure artists who come alive during these few days and then fade away until the next festival. People throng in thousands , marvel at these masterpieces and then forget about it,much like the culmination of the festival, which marks the end by immersing the idol in the Hoogly river.