Durga Puja organisers go green in Delhi

Bamboo. Wood. Clay. And paper. Durga Puja organisers in Delhi are making a bugle call to protect the environment and celebrate the festival of their favourite deity in a sustainable way, keeping in mind one of the major challenges of our time: Climate change.

Not just the pandals, the decoration and the cutlery used to serve 'prasad' are bio-degradable. Even the idols are made up of eco-friendly materials soluble.

The 'probashi Baangali' community (Bengalis living outside Bengal) behind Dwarka's Dakshinayan Durga Puja Samiti has conceptualised the puja as a throwback to simpler times, when everything was bamboo, cloth, 'maati' (earth) and 'shol' (a white plant-based decorative material).

Bamboo, considered a green gold, has been a traditional element in Bengal for building homes and other structures. It's no surprise then that the traditional timber is used to erect the pandal. But it's interesting that the Samiti has used bamboo to bring alive their theme: Earth. Chaos. Peace.

The facade is a multitude of bamboo poles, painted in an assortment of colours to portray varied human-life stages — from infancy to old age. The entrance is an arch of bamboo poles, joining at the pinnacle and depicting the entwined relations within the social order.

Walking past the gate, one is led to the deity, who is surrounded by pristine white walls.

"White symbolises purity and is intended to evoke a sense of peace and oneness with the goddess," said Alok Mukhopadhyay, president of the Samiti.

"The pandal, cultural stage, reception area and the stalls are not just beautiful but also environment-friendly," Mukhopadhyay added.

The five-day festival marks goddess Durga's victory over the buffalo-demon Mahishasura and her return from her mythological home in Kailash, where she lives with her husband Shiva. On the visit, she is accompanied by her children — Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya.

In Chittaranjan Park, known as Delhi's mini-Kolkata, two puja committees are celebrating the festival by going green.

In its 45th year, the Mela Ground Durga Puja Samiti is popular for its unique themes and large-scale celebrations.

This year, they have recreated the 'zamindar' culture of 18th-century Bengal when the feudal lords would celebrate the festival with grandeur and opulence in their 'raj baadi', or royal homes.

The pandal features a massive entrance gate made up of — again — bamboos. The 'mandap', which houses the idol, is decorated with craft reminiscent of the era gone by. The decor uses non-toxic and chemical-free materials, said Avik Mitra, a member of the puja organising committee.

"From idols to decoration, everything is created using soluble clay. We have used organic colours made of dried fruits and flowers and we are also using paper plates to distribute bhog," Mitra added.

To keep the Yamuna clean, the puja samiti will immerse the idols in an artificial pond.

Supporting the initiatives to keep the environment clean is the B-Block Durga Puja in C R Park, which is in its 44th year of puja celebration.

The Durga idol here has been decorated in the traditional 'daaker saaj'. Historically, the idols have been decorated using silver foils, often imported from outside India. Since the embellishments would come through mail (daak), it came to be known as 'daaker saaj'.

"Our idol is completely eco-friendly. Only permissible colours are used. In fact, our pandal is also completely eco-friendly. So would be our visarjan," said the puja samiti's executive member Sayan Acharya.

Though relatively new, the puja committee in Gurgaon's DLF-5 is also doing its bit.

The idol here too is made up of only clay.The puja organisers are not using plastic or metal articles and have used either wood, paper or clay.

"There's been a deep concern about the environment at a global level. While the celebrations must go on, we must also be responsible," said a puja committee member.

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