Mumbai: The five-day Durga Puja festival began in the city on Friday, with the major pandals pulling in the faithful with diverse themes and delectable bhog.
The Bombay Durga Bari Samiti in South Mumbai, which is in its 94th year, is the oldest event in the city. The pandal at the historic Tejpal Hall near August Kranti Maidan has folk art as its theme this year, with a display of Potchitra, a style of painting from West Bengal and Odisha.
North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja | FPJ
History of the pandals
Artists from Pingla, a village in West Bengal renowned for its art and craft traditions, have displayed their creations at the pandal.
Susmita Mitra, president of the group, said that every year a new theme promotes the culture and language of Bengal for Probashi Bengalis who live outside West Bengal. “We keep it simple, focusing on rituals and culture, passing on our rich heritage to the next generation,” he said.
Mitra added that the pandal had started with five Bengalis. “We extend a helping hand to every part of society without discrimination,” he said.
Another old celebration, the Durga Puja at Bengal Club, Shivaji Park, has received a ‘heritage’ recognition. The pandal, which is in its 88th year, has a Divya Jyoti temple with a glass-studded enclosure. The celebrations will feature Dhak, Dhol and other traditional musical instruments from Kolkata.
Joy Chakraborty, member and spokesperson for Bengal Club, said that their pandal is the only one in Mumbai recognised as a 'heritage puja pandal' by the tourism department. “We have been identified as a venue for local and international tourists to experience what a heritage celebration is like,” said Chakraborty.
The North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti, hosted by the Mukerji family which is prominent in the film industry, is in its 76th year. The pandal at Tulip Star Hotel, Juhu, features a 20-feet tall three-tonne statute of Durga that will need a forklift to immerse it in the water. The festival was started in 1948 by Sasadhar Mukerji, a film producer and other Mumbai-based Bengalis from the Hindi film industry, like Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Pradeep Kumar and Bimal Roy. The pandal has, as its theme, the temples of Thailand, with their ornate designs. Debu Mukerji, son of Sasadhar Mukerji, said, “When you come to the pandal, it is because of your faith in God. It is a value we inculcate in our children. This is our service to the people.”
At the Powai Sarvajanik Durgotsav, organised by the Powai Bengali Association, this is an 18th-year celebration. This year, the theme of the celebrations is cricket, to celebrate the Cricket World Cup competition that is currently underway. The pandal has created a replica of the club at Lords Cricket Ground, London, where India won its first Cricket World Cup in 1983.
“Our pavilion has been designed after the popular stadiums of India and the puja ground has been divided into sections like the umpire’s corner and the boundaries,” said Supriyo Lahiri of the Powai group.
The Powai pandal has cultural events lined up between October 21 and 23. Devotees can also enjoy the culinary delights of Durga Puja with the bhog, or prasad, for lunch. Between 12,000 and 13,000 people are expected to eat here every afternoon.