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Budget boost in 100th year
August, 10th 2009

Calcuttas first baroari puja turns 100 this year with a five-fold jump in budget and a departure from the tradition of low-key celebrations.

For the first time in the history of the puja, a professional has been hired to think up a theme while lights have been ordered from Chandernagore. The budget for the centenary edition is Rs 15 lakh, up from Rs 3 lakh last year.

This will of course cover all the other pujas we do Lakshmi, Annapurna and Jagaddhatri, said convener Shiv Ranjan Banerjee of the Bhowanipur Sanatan Dharmatsahini Sabha, which brought Bengals greatest festival out of the confines of the courtyards of babus to street corners.

As usual, the puja will be held at Balaram Basu Ghat on the banks of the Adi Ganga. The site has a permanent thakurdalan facing the twin Shiva temples constructed by Balaram Bose, a wealthy resident of the area. He had taken over the ghat from the Mukherjee family, whose descendant Anil Mukherjee, 84, is the president of the puja committee.

The puja, which has never courted the spotlight, was started by Geeta Mahasabha president Khagendranath Shastri among others and was supported by luminaries like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, writer Premendra Nath Mitra, mathematics teacher Keshav Chandra Nag and actress Molina Devi over the years.

The venue of the puja has a history, having seen a double satidaha in 1829 when it was a burning ghat. A stone plaque commemorating the immolation of Sati and Debi, two daughters of the Mukherjee family that owned the ghat then, now rests at Indian Museum. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has declared the site a heritage spot.

With the road by the ghat being too narrow to allow any construction, a stage has been planned off Harish Mukherjee Road, next to Mitra Institution.

Flanking the ekchala Durga on each side will be the 10 dashamahavidyas, or the 10 forms that Sati took to convince Shiva to let her go on her own to her father Dakshas yajna. The entry to the ghat will be turned into a makeshift temple and at the exit will be placed the dashavatar, or the 10 incarnations of Vishnu.

A show on old Calcutta will also be projected on a screen, shielding from view the river overrun by filth and moss.

All the figures, except the Durga idol, will be made of straw, bamboo slices, sola pith and thermocol. This will match the look of the arches we have planned on Harish Mukherjee Road, said Jyoti Chatterjee, a resident involved with the puja for 40 years.

The puja has a tradition of jatra, kirtan, Chandigaan and shehnai recitals.

All the figures, except the Durga idol, will be made of straw, bamboo slices, sola pith and thermocol. This will match the look of the arches we have planned on Harish Mukherjee Road, said Jyoti Chatterjee, a resident involved with the puja for 40 years.

The puja has a tradition of jatra, kirtan, Chandigaan and shehnai recitals. In our childhood, we saw Molina Devi take the lead in organising plays like Bilbamangal and Bindur Chhele, said Banerjee, whose granduncle Chittaranjan was one of the founding members of the organising committee.

The centenary schedule includes a musical evening, a football match involving celebrities, an eye camp and a blood donation campaign.

Residents of the area cant wait for the celebrations to begin. But though the puja is being held on a grander scale this time, the immersion will take place on Dashami itself. We have a 100-year-old tradition to preserve, said Shiba Prasad Mukherjee, the chairman of the centenary committee.

 
 
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