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Photographer's Note

Durga Puja, the biggest festival of us Bengalis is celebrated more as a community festival, with each locality performing their own. In Kolkata alone more than ten thousand pandals are set up, all clamouring for the admiration and praise of the populace.

The Pandal This temporary abode of Ma Durga. Play grounds, traffic circles, ponds - wherever space may be available - elaborates structures called pandals 'are set up, many with nearly a year's worth of planning behind them. The word pandal means a temporary structure, made of bamboo and cloth, which is used as a temporary temple for the purpose of the puja. While some of the pandals are simple structures, others are often elaborate works of art with themes that rely heavily on history, current affairs and sometimes pure imagination. So intricate and elaborate are these structures that it is indeed sometimes difficult to figure out the Pandals and the real things. Somewhere inside these complex edifices is a stage on which Durga reigns, standing on her lion mount, wielding ten weapons in her ten hands. This is the religious center of the festivities, and the crowds gather to worship.

Today's Puja, however, goes far beyond religion. In fact, visiting the pandals recent years, one can only say that Durgapuja the largest outdoor art festival on earth. In the 1990s, a preponderance of architectural models came up on the pandal exteriors, but today the art motif extends to elaborate interiors, executed by trained artists, with consistent stylistic elements, carefully executed and bearing the name of the artist.

Take the example of this pandal, built on a busy road in North Kolkata. This pandal is a replica of a pagoda or as some say, a bird. Standing to a height of more than a three story building (the adjacent building is two storeys high), this pandal, made of tin sheets is a monumental creation. The gate & the interiors is decorated with intricate works with shola, a soft white material, possibly a plant extract. Small wooden dolls adorn the interior as well. On the outside, the pandal is bordered by rows of hand Rickshaws (Hand Rickshaws or rickshas are a mode of human-powered transport: a runner draws a two-wheeled cart which seats one or two persons). Even the gate to the pandal has been made using, two of these Hand Rickshaws. Kolkatas ubiquitous hand-pulled rickshaws have been part of the city for as long as one can remember & have been immortalised as a living symbol of Kolkata in films like "City of Joy". These Rickshaws have recently banned in Kolkata on humanitarian grounds.

This picture is a part of my tribute to the workmanship which goes to make these fantastic temporary structures Pandals. Creativity in Bengal indeed have wings ! These works of art have a short life indeed, a maximum of ten days. I waited for the security guard to be in this position to take the picture.

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7851 W: 324 N: 16060] (56760)
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