Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Spectacles Called Durga Puja

Durga Puja represents a perfect example of transformation of local festivals into high profile festivals for touristic consumption. Although, the spectacles, as Kaleidoscope is observing since time immemorial is yet to gain touristic attention compared to what even the monotonous evening prayer gets at Varanasi.

Constructed space and spectators in AE (1) block of Salt Lake 2012

There may be two major positions, first, urban festivals gives boom to the city economy as we all see a rise in the consumption habit of Kolkatans. Second, and more importantly there is an element of ethnic pride and we can argue that the puja reinforces the content and meaning of collective identification.

Shibmandir's Puja at South Kolkata. It is classic mix if tradition and modern going hand in hand. The ritualistic part is controlled by the Temple committee and the decorations, etc. by a separate committee.
One must remember Urban spectacles are produced - in the sense of Henri Lefebvre and always include the process of commodification, hence, we see this

Gates with advertisement is one of the most important source of revenue - taken at Ekdalia Evergreen pandal 2012
Competition between different Puja pandals are now sponsored (taken from website)


The aestheticisation of every day life comes alive a few months before the actual commencement of the puja. Kaleidoscope is no exception. He accompanies the queen to several "good", aesthetically charming stores to buy materials of aestheticisation. It costs huge... but Kaleidoscope and the Queen finds it a pleasureful pursuit to buy clothes in this once in a year indulgence of consumerist selves. 

People taking snaps... one of the major pursuits of the Puja event is to look beautiful, capture them and preserve them.

The construction of spaces for consumption:

The Puja opens up the possibilities for the creative construction and transformation of a space. Most of the big puja pandals starts organising themselves immediately after one puja gets over. Within in a few months, the open space selected for the puja observes a great transformation. There are use of symbols, and material objects that signifies the transformation and makes the consumption possible.

Mudiyali Club 2012: constructed by the Zari and other glittering materials used for the decorating the idol.

Shibmandir 2012: the theme was DNA and human cloning

Hand pulled rickshaw has been aesthetically used by the Kashba Bosepukur Puja PandalL the entire construction is made by Pine wood.
Add caption

Part of the Kashba-Bosepukur Pandal

The essences:

There are almost ritualistic restrictions in experimentations with materials of the idol. There are several experimentations with the forms, but the materials i.e. mud covered straw and bamboo structure with paints. 

A typical "ek-challa" idol, taken at Saltlake AE (1) block 2012

Worshiping of "Bhanga thakur" is done by the Brahmin Professionals: Taken at Saltlake, BJ block Puja 2012

The space that is created in the name of the Puja is lived and relived by the spectators. It reminds kaleidoscope that of Lefebvre's "third space." Each year, with ever increasing energy the space for the puja which constitutes a mix of tradition and experimentations with tradition is lived by the spectators - all with new clothing, aesthetic looks and energies to find a space in over crowded spaces.

Long queue of Pandal hoppers outside the FD block pandal, Salt Lake 2012

Spectators of the Puja at Ekdalia Evergreen 2012
There are late night pandal hopping, eating, spending money in commuting, making plans for spending money with dear and near ones... and so on... the space is relived and consumed as a whole. 


Kaleidoscope and the queen are hopping pandals for last several years. They ritually visit to the thematic pandals and also the pandals with little or no change. They, like many others make plans, fight over plans, save money, spend the savings without regrets, eat, drink, spend days without regular tasks. They feel that the entire city becomes art gallery. Yet, the touristic attention towards Durga Puja is much less. The consumption is still restricted to the Kolkatan's, who in turn gives their savings to the business houses. Apart from the domestic consumers, the city does not earn much concrete stuffs from the outside. There is a huge potential of making festival tourism that can circle around the great transformation of the space. Kaleidoscope and Queen discussed and debated the issue. They worked with The Boss, to make sense of the festival, transformation and consumption. They might write something out of their experience... however, Kolkata till date fails to utilise the tourism potential of urban space transformation.

This article has been referred to by ANGELICA MARINESCU in an article entitled "ETHNICITY AND RELIGIOUS SYNCRETISM: CELEBRATING DURGĀ PŪJĀ IN THE SUNDARBANS OF INDIA" Roman Journal of Sociology (2014):


  1. I have never been to Durgapuja... have heard a lot about it. Have read it in the news papers. There is a serious lag in research articles Kaleidoscope. I could only find Anjan Ghosh's articles from CSSS. Try to write something. Dont make this spectacular event disappear from the scientific communities. Of course, festival tourism can earn a lot of money to the city and to the country as well. With corporate participation, as I can see from this article this is highly likely...

  2. The photos are excellent...!

  3. We should seriously think about promoting this excitement towards the international consumers... thanks for caring

  4. you should consult Lefebvre, Soja and the generation of theorists and empirical works centering around space studies. All the best with your academic endeavour...