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India's space odyssey, slice of Nagaland: Durga puja variety
Sahana Ghosh
India's space odyssey, slice of Nagaland: Durga puja variety
PHOTO : Kolkata Pandals with North Eastern Theme

Twinkling rockets zooming off into space towards a reddish Mars, tribals keeping alive the unique iron craft in the backdrop of insurgency in Chhattisgarh, totems from remote Nagaland - Durga Puja marquees here are showcasing India's strengths and potentials.

A prominent part of marquee (pandal) decorations here are use of lakhs of tiny, rainbow coloured lights, to border exits and entrances that also act as crowd pullers.

For children the more of these glittering arrangements, the better!

At the Sree Bhumi Sporting Club pandal - one of Kolkata's most extravagant displays in the north eastern fringes - organisers have very thoughtfully depicted India's space odyssey with lakhs of LEDs to keep children occupied with the topic of space exploration while they queue up through the 18 gates leading to the marquee.

"Space travel always interests children and we thought the topic could be a good conversation point between them and their parents. This way they will remain engaged and not get bored during the lengthy queue.

"Since they line up for hours on end to see the idols, the bright display of rockets heading to Mars, space shuttles etc., will suit them," D.K. Goswami, general secretary of the club told writer.

India began its space journey in 1975 with the launch of Aryabhatta using a Russian rocket and till date, it has completed over 100 space missions.

In September, India created space history by becoming the first country to enter the Martian orbit in its debut attempt, courtesy the hugely-lauded Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).

"However, we could not incorporate the final stage of the Mission as our plans were solidified five months ago. We have also installed a mechanized, lit-up dragon for the children's amusement," said Goswami, adding the lighting decorations cost around Rs.15 to 18 lakh.

At the popular celebration of Suruchi Sangha - that focuses on one Indian state every year - theme artist Subrata Banerjee wants visitors to take away the message of peace via the art and culture of Chhattisgarh, a state facing Maoist violence.

"The iron figures in areas like Bastar are not made by moulding or casting, they are made by hammering them out of red hot iron sheets.

"These tribals are not touched by the lure of money - they are content in their own world and are happy-go-lucky. However, it is unfortunate that extremism has hit the state, which is a tourist draw for these artforms. So we want visitors to see the importance of peace," Banerjee told writer.

To replicate the figures and incorporate elements of the artforms, Banerjee consulted craftsmen from the state and tried to flesh out the original designs. Even the Durga idol has a distinct rustic look, complete with folk art patterns sketched in the background.

"We got them to do the native designs for us... many of them are being lost with the times and we need to retain those. At the same time, they need to diversify and innovate to cater to modern demands," he said.

On similar lines, psychedelic totems, giant drums, drummers in customary attires, shields and spears accentuate a typical bamboo hut of Nagaland at the Sovabazar 9 Pally puja.

"The north-east states are still an unknown entity for the public and so we have brought a slice from Nagaland," a member of the puja committee told writer.

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