Chennai: With rising Bengali population in the city and their biggest festival Durga puja knocking on their doors, DC speaks to major Bengali associations in the city to know what is in store this year.
South Madras Cultural Association, known to be the biggest puja organizers in the city, is celebrating its 40th Sharadotsav. Located in Besant Nagar, this year the puja will have Dr K. Shridhar, head of neurosurgery, Global Hospitals, as the chief guest, and Md Shakeel Akhter, IPS, Additional Director General of Police, Armed Police, as the guest of honour for the inaugural ceremony at 6 pm on October 15.
Since all the pre-puja days (Chaturthi and Panchami) fall in the weekend this year, cultural programmes have been scheduled to start on the October 14, says Bhaswar Mukherjee, president, SMCA.
Regarding footfalls, Mukherjee expects 1 lakh darshanarthis/ visitors during 4-5 days.
As for what is special this year, Mukherjee reveals how the concept of sindoorkhela is being made open to all women this year. Generally this particular ritual is restricted to married women. But this time, on Dasara, Sindoorkhela will be open to all women. The aim is to foster inclusiveness. Women who have lost their husbands and members of LGBTQI community among others can participate, soak themselves in all the festivities and enhance the flavour of puja. There will be food stalls from Kolkata to serve authentic Bengali food and sweets. Free Prasad will be served to all.
Bengal Association, T Nagar: This oldest Bengali association in the city is organising its 85th puja. All women will get to participate in the vermilion ritual. With the ever-increasing members of the organisation, Soumya Guha Thakurta, secretary of the association, says,
“This year we’re giving opportunity to all members. Around 100 members are participating when the figure usually hovers around 40-50 every year. And inclusiveness is another thing in mind. To integrate more Tamil people into the festival, we felicitated five first generation women entrepreneurs on Mahalaya (Oct 8). We don’t have any commercial motive behind this. It’s purely social. We are looking forward to facilitating more in the upcoming puja days.”
Thakurta goes on, “ This year we are aiming for a plastic-free puja. There will be 10-15 tumblers for water. Water cans, paper and glasses will also be at your disposal. However, 500 ml water bottles will also be made available for those who prefer bottled drinking water. We’re aiming to involve maximum volunteers to serve water to guests in paper and glass cups, during “bhog” time. Even for parcels, we’re planning to use aluminum foils inside cloth bags, instead of polythene bags.”
Thakurta expects 15,000-20,000 footfalls this year. “We’re having 14 cooks over from Kolkata to make us delicious Hilsa and other mouth-watering Bengali cuisines.”
Among all the cultural programmes, there will be “Naari”- a performance to be put up by Tilottama, the ladies wing of the association. They will portray women in six situations- six incident scenes from movies. The idea is to show how women deal with different circumstances.
Their puja will be kickstarted by Anandamela, an event where all women members cook different Bengali delicacies at home and bring it to the association for sale.
Dakshin Chennai Prabashi Cultural Association:
This puja, which is popular among IT sectors on OMR , is stepping into its 5th year. With a budget of approximately `16 lakh, this year the puja will take place in Shri Umadri Mahal in Sholinganallur, opposite Sathyabhama university.
Sanjay Dhol, executive member of DCPA, says,
“This year we are going to have a 12 feet durga idol adorned in “daker saaj”.
The association has also arranged to bring several Durga Puja magazines, exclusive to West Bengal.
“And this year we’re again bringing out our club magazine Sharodotsav, 2018 with several members, irrespective of age, contributing write-ups. First year we got hardcopies. Then it was only softcopy for the subsequent years. This year, we’re again having hardcopies,” says Sanjay.
Just like many other puja associations, this puja too has an artisan from Kolkata (Kishori Pal for DCPA) come over to make the idols. Although it is a comparatively young puja, Sanjay expects 1,500-2,000 visitors due to the prime location this year. “We’re getting enormous response on social media.”
Dakshini Society, Anna Nagar:
This puja, at the Community Hall in Central Revenue Staff Quarters in Anna Nagar, is having its 24thyear of celebration. “When we first started, it was only 15-16 families and now we are more than 100,’ shares Somojit Ghosh, president of the club. “We are like a close-knit family.” Ghosh claims the cultural programmes are strictly restricted to only members of the club. The organisers are having an event management team take care of the décor part.