Chennai: ‘Durga puja’, eastern India’s largest festival, is here and ‘Namma Chennai’ is ready to welcome the Goddess. As the beats of ‘dhak’ resound in various parts of the city, the festival can be witnessed primarily across nine places throughout the five days starting Monday and continuing till Dasami (Dasara.)
Leading the festival is South Calcuttans who are in their 37th year of celebrations. It is the second oldest Durga puja in Chennai. Rising prices have had little effect on the festive mood this puja season, says secretary Bhaswar Mukherjee.
“We have got a fair amount of funding this year, we have a charitable trust and essentially the ‘puja’ that we do is a fund raiser for activities of the trust involved with the Adyar Cancer Research Institute. Our puja has been growing bigger every year. Corporate sponsorship too has worked out with brands like Vodafone, ITC and Shreeleathers backing us,” he added.
However, he was quick to add that cost of organising the festivities was going up. “So we are trying to cut costs in certain areas to make sure that because of inflation, we don't give less to both cultural associations and devotees.” said Mukherjee.
Speaking about overhead costs, including labour and lighting, he said they have gone up 10 per cent. To counter that they have gone online and reduced the cost of printing, “which has somewhat helped us balance things”.
Meanwhile, Swami Gautamanandaji (Adhyaksha), the head priest of Sri Ramakrishna Mission, will be inaugurating the puja. Earlier, the inauguration used to take place inside the auditorium of "Tamil Nadu Housing Board", but this year it will be in an open space for which the size of the idol too has been increased to 11 feet. With an expected footfall of hundred thousand over four days (around 30,000 a day), this move will surely benefit visitors as they can flock to the venue and have their 'darshan' at ease.
The Math is also hoping that authentic Bengali dishes cooked by housewives will tantalise the tastebuds of devotees. "Durga puja Prasad" and "Bhog" will be distributed from October 20 to 22 at 11.00 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. respectively. Aarti and, pushpanjali on Maha Ashtami will begin from 7.15 a.m. and will go on till 7.45 a.m on October 21, Wednesday. 'Sandhi puja' too will be held on on the same day from 8.11 am to 8.59 am.
As Durga puja is coming to an end, womenfolk will also be playing the traditional 'sindur khela' ( vermilion) after which the immersion of the idol will take place. Meanwhile, for the migrant population of Bengalis who miss home, they have introduced memberships as well.
The latest to join the bandwagon is Dakshin Chennai Probashi Cultural Association (DCPCA), which is in its second year, is spending close to Rs 15 lakh on Durga puja and have not cut down their festival budget. "Compared to last year, our budget has gone up which is natural due to the rising prices," said Ardhendu Chakraborty, president, DCPCA.
He adds they expect around 1000 visitors every day. "This side of OMR has seen a massive increase in terms of Bengalis, nearly double. So, obviously we have to cater to the large audience." However, for them too getting sponsorship was not an easy task but have done their best. Apart from cultural programs, there will be special programs for senior citizens as well.
However, the worst hit by rising prices has been one of the oldest pujas in town organised by the Bengal association in T Nagar, which has had to scale down its functions.
"Sponsorships have been a problem this year and donations too have gone down. Hence, the budget has been reduced by approximately 25 percent," said Ajoy Kumar Chakraborty, president, Bengal Association. However, he is confident that this won't affect the footfalls at the pandal. With a variety of food stalls providing authentic Bengali cuisine and that too at a cheap price "it will surely bring in the crowds," he said confidently.
Location: Tamil Nadu