Home India News Mumbai set for dazzling Durga Puja despite swine flu, 26/11

Mumbai set for dazzling Durga Puja despite swine flu, 26/11

By Quaid Najmi, IANS,

Mumbai : The million-strong Bengali community here, including many Bollywood celebrities, is all geared up to worship goddess Durga for five days. Beckoning them are marquees decorated with varied themes – one of them a full-fledged village in Bengal!

The Durga Puja celebrations this week shall be conducted by 83 organising teams between Colaba in south Mumbai to Virar and Navi Mumbai in adjoining Thane district – despite this being the first after last year’s 26/11 terror attacks and despite swine flu being on the back of everyone’s mind.

All associations are vying with one another to do something “different”.

The 10-year-old Pragati Durgotsav Samiti (PDS) of Vasai has created the replica of a typical Bengali village celebrating Durga Puja with full tradition. According to PDS head Dipak Biswas, the entrance to the village is through a towering 40 ft X 70 ft gate.

“As you enter you feel you are in a remote Bengali village with houses of mud walls and thatched roofs made of banana and coconut leaves, hanging oil lanterns and a ‘dhaner gola’ (rice storehouse),” Biswas told IANS here.

A bylane leads to the ruins of a ‘nat mandir’ like in the times of the Zamindari system which used to celebrate a family Durga Puja and the entire village would join the festivities that went on for days, Biswas explained.

Mumbai has other interesting marquees too.

The biggest and most lavish function will be held at the Lokhandwala Durgotsav Samiti, founded and headed by famous playback singer Abhijit Bhattacharya. Estimated to cost over Rs.2 crore, it attracts celebrities and the glam crowds of Bollywood each year.

The eye-catching set has been been designed by famous Bollywood art director Bijon Dasgupta and the idol would be a little over 35 feet high.

Abhijit refused to put a price tag on the celebrations. “Which man can say how much he will spend for his daughter’s wedding? Similarly, how can my devotion to Mother Durga be valued?” he told IANS here.

He said it was only because of the goddess’s blessings that he was able to afford and organise the celebrations – “the grandest anywhere in India, and I humbly bow my head to Mother”.

Abhijit proudly says the main attraction of the celebrations this year would be “Mother Durga herself – she’s the only star here”.

He said Monday, the Durga Puja marquee had a unique Eid celebration in which all the artisans and other staffers took part.

“Nearly 75 percent of the people behind the grand event are Muslims; they have been offering namaz daily here for over a month, breaking fast and toiling here in the preparations for the Durga Puja. It was but natural that we celebrate Eid with them as the two festivals coincided this time,” Abhijit said.

He said that Muslims are engaged in most aspects of the preparations, including the preparation of the traditional “bhog” offered to the devotees.

During the five days of Durga Puja, the top names of Bollywood – Bengalis and non-Bengalis – make it a point to visit this marquee.

For the VVIPs thronging the venue, Abhijit said they have prepared a special, airconditioned enclosure to ensure that people’s attention is not diverted and the glam crowds can also worship Mother Durga in privacy.

Large crowds are expected at some of the oldest Durga Puja celebrations like Bombay Durgavari Samiti (Bandra) and the Dadar Bengal Club.

Another place where the event would be celebrated in the traditionl style would be the Zaveri Bazar Swarnakar Samiti in south Mumbai where thousands of Bengali goldsmiths live and work.

Both Biswas and Abhijit said though this year the celebrations are coming in the aftermath of last year’s 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and the spread of swine flu, which has already claimed over 100 lives in Maharashtra, people’s enthusiasm is simply overwhelming.

“Whatever be the case, Mother Durga is there to protect all of us. Why bother about these things?” Abhijit said.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])