Friday, October 02, 2009
73. Durga Puja - then and now
Durga Puja is over with immersion of idols of the Goddess earlier this week. In my locality in Delhi, there was hardly any sign of the festival reaching climax. Even the usual din of crackers associated with Dussehra was missing this year. It was heartening to hear that at many other places, people celebrated the festival with the same old enthusiasm.
Durga Puja always reminds me of my childhood which I spent at a small cosmopolitan town in Assam. We children used to wait for the festival eagerly. For a small town, it seems unimaginable that there used to be at least 50 pandals. During festival days, almost the entire town used to pour onto the streets to enjoy the puja in the evenings. Neither religion nor language mattered. It was time for merry-making and everyone was eager to be part of the revelry.
We used to go from pandal to pandal, comparing the idols. The aim was to cover all the pandals over the duration of the festival. Hawkers used to throng the pandals with eatables- nimki, jalebi, chana-bhaja and so on. There was no miserliness in distribution of prasada. We hardly needed to go home for dinner.
In the main pandals, there used to be aarti competitions. The dancers used to put live charcoal in earthen pots which they used to hold with their teeth while dancing. The competitions often continued up to midnight.
The pandals and the roads leading up to them used to be jam-packed. There was no security issues, no parking hassles, no fear of swine flu.
Things have changed not only in Delhi, but in my little town as well. On Durga Puja days, most people prefer to remain indoors, watching TV. The number of pandals is coming down every year. It is difficult to imagine that the population of the town has actually grown manifold. It is no longer considered cool to wear new clothes and move in groups from pandal to pandal, watching idols.