The Hindutva camp seems to be very jubilant about West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s recent announcement of providing an assistance of rupees 10,000 to more than 28,000 Durga Puja committees across the state. Many are even claiming this is probably a result of BJP’s Hindutva agenda.
While it is true that BJP’s Hindutva agenda has forced many rival parties to adapt to a more Hindu friendly narrative, this step of CM Mamata Banerjee has absolutely nothing to do with the opposition’s newly found love for Hindus. This is just Mamata Banerjee’s way of wooing thousands of puja committees and lakhs of people associated with them for one last time before the bell for 2019 rings.
The tradition of worshipping Goddess Durga in outdoor pandals (tents), started in Bengal during the British era, with the intention of bringing Hindu people from all walks of life together and instilling a feeling of unity amongst them. Almost the same reasons of origin as the sarvajanin (public) Ganesha utsav of Maharashtra. The British are long gone, and so has the original purpose and simplicity of the Durga Puja.
When the outdoor Durga pujas or barowari pujas, as they are called in local language, first began there were only a handful of puja commitees, but now countless of them have mushroomed across the state. There is a Durga puja commitee in every nook and corner of Kolkata. All out of devotion for Goddess Durga? I would love to believe so.
But the fact is that Durga puja, a religious occasion of the Bengali Hindus, has been turned into a money making carnival. Surprisingly this is what it is being called nowadays. The left liberal masses of the state don’t even like the name Durga puja anymore, and instead prefer to call it Saradotsava (festival of Sharada month).
The religious and cultural aspects of Durga puja, have long been set aside. Tampering with the traditional idol of Mahisasura mardini (slayer of mahisasura), has also become a regular practice of these so called puja committees. Apart from a few old Durga puja committees like the Baghbazar sarbojonin, a traditional idol of Mahisasura mardini is now a rare sight.
The more wild ideas one can come up with, the more crowd they attract which obviously means more sponsors and money. Because, after-all the multinational companies sponsor these Durga Puja committees on the basis of footfall in their pandals.
Goddess Durga styled as Barbie in one of the pandals
The only intention behind this exhausting description was to explain that how most of the Durga Puja committees have little to absolutely nothing to do with either Hindu religion or Bengali culture. As I said, Durga Puja has now become a multi-million business.
It is actually one of few industries along with syndicate that are thriving in the state. The mantra of success in both of these industries, puja committee and syndicate, are also pretty similar. One needs to have good political connections and band of local hooligans to succeed.
During left regime, most of the puja committees were headed by local leaders of the CPIM parties, despite being ideologically atheist. Now with the change in government, the political affiliation of the puja committees have also changed from red to green. In some places the transition was smooth, in other places it was rather forceful.
The politicization of the Durga puja can be understood by the simple fact, that in previous years, theme songs of some famous pujas and I’m not naming them, were written by none other than the state’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. It would not be surprising at all, if after this financial assistance, we get to see huge hoardings of Mamata Banerjee and TMC around famous puja pandals.
Had the West Bengal Government really wanted to do something for the Hindus, it could have alloted an amount for renovation of thousands of small Lord Shani, Goddess Kali, and Lord Shiva shrines across the roadsides of the state that are in serious need of repairing. Reiterating myself, this is not a Hindutva move at all but only a move to thank the puja committees and all sorts of hooligans associated with them for their unwavering support in past, as well as ensuring it for the future.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi.