Durga Puja, the quintessential Bengali festival, is the festival in which the city of Kolkata gives its all. From Ooligli to Rajpath, the entire city transforms into its familiar form, courtesy of Kolkata’s hundreds of Barwari Pujas. There is theme puja as well as old puja, which Calcutta people flock from pandal to pandal to see. But not only Calcutta residents, people from home and abroad join the city for a few days of worship to see this royal festival.
Every year, from Bollywood superstars to star cricketers, the puja is inaugurated. But this year the picture is much faded. Inauguration of puja has started across the city. Earlier, the puja was usually inaugurated on Panchami. But the equation of worship has changed due to commodity and commercial practices.
Besides, the number of people visiting pandals and idols has increased day by day, now visitors come from Mahalaya to the streets, so the opening of the puja has also come forward. This year, the inauguration of Mahalaya has started three days before.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated several pujas in the city. However, compared to other years, Bollywood stars or cricketers are practically not seen at the opening of the puja. Why did the stars turn away from Kolkata’s worship? Or the worshipers have turned away from the stars. But why?
From March 2020, the outbreak of Corona started increasing across the country. Because of that, Bengalis spent the last two years practically sitting at home. Besides this year Kolkata’s Durga Puja has been recognized as UNESCO Heritage. So it goes without saying that this year’s puja procession will be more grand. The pandals are getting ready. Which stars are coming to the city for the opening of the puja this year? When contacted, event manager Tochon Ghosh sounded practically despondent.
Tochan Ghosh said, ‘More stars are coming to the puja this time. Sunil Grover is coming on 30th. Besides, I am not bringing any other star and as far as I know about who else is coming, maybe Govinda can come to inaugurate a puja, no one else is coming.’
Another event manager said, ‘This year, no puja authorities wanted to spend a lot of money or show extravagance. For the past few days, many influential people in the city have been under the scrutiny of the CID and ED, so many people are reluctant to show any extravagance. Besides, most of the big pooja authorities who can afford to bring Bollywood stars have inaugurated most of the poojas by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Therefore, the worship of Bollywood stars has become very bad at the opening.’
So is it because of the current political situation that Calcutta puja is becoming less glamorous or is there some other equation behind it? Whatever the reason, the reality is that this year’s Durga Puja is somewhat devoid of the glitter of Bollywood glamor that used to light up Kolkata’s big puja mandaps.