Every year, Goddess Durga descends to the earth with her children for a short visit to her home. Celebrated by Bengalis across the world, the multi-day Durga Puja festival is a massive occasion for many. In Kolkata, various clubs and committees organise pujas, putting up massive themed pandals that hundreds gather to visit.
This year, the festival comes against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while this will see people face many restrictions while pandal hopping, one club in the city has gone a step further, recreating the recent migrant crisis in the country. Behala's Barisha club has replaced the traditional Durga idol with a statue of a migrant woman with her children. She is surrounded by gunny bags of aids with the face of a traditional Durga idol reflected in the backdrop.
As artist Rintu Das told ANI, "The idea came when I saw plight of migrant workers. Woman walking with four children, without aid, is something I consider worth deifying."
The unique pandal has fascinated netizens, with many lavishing praise on the idea and its execution. "Pallab Bhowmick's Ma Durga for the Pujo this year, as a migrant worker with her children. Very evocative," tweeted Joy Bhattacharya.
"Stunning workmanship of Goddess Durga as a Migrant Woman. I guess the Bengalis this year have decided not to be brutal, else they would have also given a face to Mahisasur who was responsible for the migrant distress," wrote another.
As is the norm for Twitter, many also offered up derisive or critical comments about the concept. However, many users also took it upon themselves to shut down the naysayers with alacrity.
Asserting that they wanted to portray the "strength and determination" of Goddess Durga in the migrant woman, club President Sudip said these are very unusual and difficult times for everyone. "Goddess Durga epitomises strength and determination. Our budget has completely gone down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Barisha Club is known for its theme; so nothing could be better than portraying the hardships of these migrant workers," Sudip said.
In West Bengal, people treat this time of year as their daughter Durga's yearly sojourn with her four children -- Kartik, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Saraswati -- from her husband Mahadev's abode in Mt Kailasha. However, some daughters returned home empty-handed this time during the lockdown -- the Barisha club's theme.