Showcasing Bengal’s traditional folk culture, dance and music, the fourth edition of Durga Puja Carnival that got underway today witnessed over 70 Puja organisers parading their award-winning idols at Red Road prior to the immersion in the Hooghly. Issues related to environment, water crisis, women empowerment and government schemes such as Kanyashree and Safe Drive Save Life were also portrayed by the Puja committees. The theme of this year’s carnival was Ranga Maatir Bangla. The main stage was decked up with terracotta murals that are seen in the temples of Bishnupur.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, senior officials, a host of Tollywood artists, many foreign diplomats and consuls general of a number of countries were present on the occasion. All the community Pujas selected for the road show were winners of ‘Biswa Bangla Sharad Samman’ award in various categories.Each Puja committee showcased idols accompanied by tableaux, including a miniature pandal where they hosted Maa Durga and her entourage for the past few days, presenting unique and intricate artwork and dazzling illumination besides cultural performances.

The Carnival kicked off with a motorcycle rally took out by police personnel, who performed stunts on the bikes. This was followed by traditional Dhunuchi and Chau dances. Sreebhumi Sporting Club began the show with MP Nusrat Jahan joining in the dance performance. Chandrayaan- II had come alive at Sreebhumi Sporting Club pandal and the mission has been replicated in the lighting works at the pandal. Barisha Club Durga Puja, which bagged the ‘Serar Sera’ award had its pandal designed to raise awareness about the damage cell phone towers cause to birds.

The pandal has been decorated with a dish TV antenna and a faux cell phone tower which is surrounded by the skeletons of dead birds. The pandal is meant to raise awareness of the harmful effects of radiation from cell phone towers on birds. The idol has also been decorated in keeping with the social message and instead of weapons, the Barisha Club Durga has been installed with little birds sitting on her hands. Chetla Agrani Club has made a pandal out of 3,000 letter boxes that have now been replaced by emails. The theme projects the journey of letters from the physical one written on paper to its evolution into an email.

The entire pandal has been beautifully decorated with old typewriters, lanterns, phones, landlines, gramophones and pendulum clocks. At Suruchi Sangha, the theme song has been penned by Miss Banerjee while Jeet Ganguly has composed the music and Shreya Ghosal has lent her voice. The pandal has been shaped like a bonedi house where Durga Puja is being held. Ekdalia Evergreen Club had its idol with lead-free paint. Ahiritola Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity’s theme revolves around the persisting water crisis in the country. Similarly, water crisis and the need to save water has been taken up as the theme by Kashi Bose Lane.

An excellent tribal dance was performed by this puja committee, Garia Mitali Sangha displayed nine forms of Durga in the mandap. Piyarabagan Sarbajanin focussed on women empowerment, Alipore Bodyguard Lines Puja Committee put up an excellent show on ‘Safe Drive Save Life’ which is their theme, Kolahol Gosthi’s ‘mahisasur mardini’ and Chorbagan Sarbajanin’s ‘Jagakhichuri’ dance performances received loud applause. Babubagan Club waved a flag for peace under the theme of ‘shanti rupena samsthita’.

The pandal showcased the art of Pingla village and their local art was used to give out a message about environmental preservation. The theme of Badamtala Ashar Sangha was feminine energy. Sabeki puja serar shera award winner Kumartuli Park Durgotsab has set up an elaborate space-themed mandap. A makeshift rocket launcher was created at the front of our pandal and the inside of the mandap is essentially a different planet. It appears as if people can actually stand at the cockpit of the spaceship and look down upon the Puja being held on Earth.

The special lighting installation turned the Red Road into a land of fairy tale. As the procession moved on, organisers attired in ethnic wear danced to the tune of ‘dhaaks’ and enacted the rituals of the fiveday Durga puja, including the ‘Sindoor Khela’ custom where women smear vermillion on each other. The Carnival started in 2016 where 39 of the most popular pujas in the city and its vicinity were invited to participate. The number of participants has grown every year after that.