This year, if you are a Bengali away from home, there’s no need to miss out on your local Durga Puja celebrations. In fact, wherever you may be in the world, if you have a community Durga Puja taking place in your city, you can share its information and photographs with Bengalis across the globe, too. This has been made possible by two Bengali youths staying in Delhi who have started a website called Sharodinfo.com.
Shouvik Basak and Dhriti Basu Mallik, both IT professionals staying near Crossing Republic, East Delhi, are putting together details of over 500 Durga Pujas, taking place from Malda to Melbourne, on this website. Helping them in this endeavour are their friends, puja organisers and enthusiastic Bengalis dwelling across the world.
Shouvik and Dhriti go back to their schooldays at the Assembly of God Church, Kolkata. During Durga puja, the duo, along with friends Akash Mondal and Chandradeep Bardhan, would go “pandal-hopping.” But only when Shouvik and Dhriti moved to Delhi, did they realise the enormity and import of Puja celebrations back home.
Dhriti says, “When you have grown up seeing a Durga Puja pandal at every turn of the street, you don’t realise how big the festival is. But once exposed to a different city and various cultures, we realised that Puja celebrations could any day rival even the Rio or Venice Carnivals. We thought why not unite the energies of Durga Pujas across the world?”
“Also, every Durga Puja – whether a Bonedi bari (royal household) puja in North Kolkata, a temple puja in Dhaka or a celebration in London – has its own history. It’s important to document it for future generations,” reminds Shouvik. So the two spread the word and Sharodinfo took off in 2011.
Last year, they had about 300 entries – mostly from Kolkata and Delhi-NCR. This time, they are expecting over 500 including by-now regulars Melbourne and Cologne (Germany) and new entries from Moscow and Switzerland. Each is catalogued into a short history, theme of the pandal and awards won.
The four friends are also aggressively making use of the ‘visual medium.’ Dhriti says, “We have prominently put up photographs and videos from as many pandals as possible because people have little time to read. Visuals also highlight important details like the Sola artwork on the Durga idol and the decoration of pandals.”
Another aspect of the website is its ‘feature stories.’ Last year, a Bangalorean travelled to all the pandals in his city and authored a piece. Another enthusiast documented the use of Terracotta idols. There are even cute Infographics, wallpapers and a collection of SMSes on the festival. “Bengalis are never short on creativity. We are happy to give them a vent,” Shouvik chuckles.
Thoughtfully, the foursome are also promoting folk artistes from Bengal on the site. “Every year, Puja organisers across cities chase Bollywood celebs to perform at pandals.
Unfortunately, folk artistes, the real patrons of our culture, lose out. Therefore, we are making this small effort to support them. Their lives must not be left untouched,” Dhriti smiles.