Delhi's old timers miss the community affair that Durga pujas were
NEW DELHI: From Wednesday, Delhiites will throng the hundreds of shimmering Durga puja pandals to celebrate the five-day festival that has become bigger and brighter over the years.
Yet many can't help but remember the good old days with nostalgia.
It was a time when the pujas were an intimate community affair instead of the extravaganzas they are today. And no one knows this better than Swapan Ganguly, general secretary of New Delhi Kali Bari, the oldest Durga puja in the city.
"This year, the total number of puja pandals will cross 400. Every year, 10 -15 new pandals are added to the list," said Ganguly.
As a 27-year-old, Indra Nath Banerjee landed up in Delhi from Kolkata in 1972 in search of better employment. His memories are mainly of the amateur theatre groups, made up of Bengali expatriates who used to wait the entire year to stage just a single show during the five days.
These days, the tradition of plays staged by local community members is rarer, with most people hardly able to devote time to daily rehearsals.
Instead, there are numerous professional drama repertories from Kolkata that come to Delhi to earn good money on the 'puja circuit'.
Another change is that the pandals have grown bigger and grander. The budget of a medium-sized puja has multiplied several times to Rs7,00,000 while those of the big ones, like at Chittaranjan Park (CR Park), have a minimum outlay of about Rs2 million.
The bigger ones, especially, turn into tourist attractions for those five days, with the CR Park pujas receiving 1,00,000 visitors daily.
Of course, with Kolkata being the beacon for all puja trends, the major committees also give a theme to their annual celebrations.
"This year, our theme is the ancient sculptural design of Indian temples," said Indrajit Sen, general secretary of cooperative grounds CR Park Durga puja committee.
Moreover, due to the higher profile of the pujas, residents from other regions of India also joining the organising committee and going pandal-hopping.