The Durga Puja festival starts on October 1 (Saturday) – which is Maha Shasthi – and ends on October 5, which is Vijaya Dashami
Maa Durga idol at Mathuradas Vassanji Memorial Hall next to Tejpal Auditorium in 2019. Pic/Bombay Durga Bari Samiti
After two years of subdued celebrations, Mumbai pandals are gearing up for Durga Puja festivities on a grand scale. The Durga Puja festival starts on October 1 (Saturday) – which is Maha Shasthi – and ends on October 5, which is Vijaya Dashami.
Speaking to mid-day.com, Susmita Mitra, President of the Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, said, “We started 93 years back when just three-four people came together and started this. Earlier it used to happen at Cross Maidan and in the 1970s it was shifted to Mathuradas Vassanji Memorial Hall next to Tejpal Auditorium near August Kranti Maidan. Since then the venue hasn’t changed.”
With no restrictions this year, explaining what has the pandal planned for this Durga Puja, Mitra explained, “In the last two years we had a small venue and low key Durga Puja. However, we did live streaming of the puja for all the rituals. With no restrictions we are back to Mathuradas Vassanji Memorial Hall this year and it will be open for all. As Covid is still around, we will maintain hygiene and keep sanitisers.”
Pic/Bombay Durga Bari Samiti
Speaking about how the Goddess Durga idol is eco-friendly, President of Bombay DurgaBari Samiti, said, “The idol is 6-feet tall and is made from clay. It’s an eco-friendly idol and we do not use synthetic colours.We were pioneers in using only water soluble colours and material – completely dissolves in water.”
According to Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, Maa Durga will be wearing jewellery crafted from fine wires called Taarer shaaj – a rare, dying art form.
For its 93rd year celebration, Bombay Durga Bari Samiti has arranged special programmes for children. The samiti initiates some unique philanthropic initiatives each year to give back to society as much as they can.
This year they have taken a small step in providing a group of special children with a day of fun-filled activities and entertainment. A group of children have been invited for darshan of Maa Durga, have Bhog Prasad, and then enjoy an afternoon of entertainment activities in the Tejpal Auditorium.
The Bombay Durga Bari Samiti will be hosting 113 students and staff from SEC school of children. The children will represent school branches of Agripada, Santacruz and Antophill on October 3.
Speaking about how the Covid affected the pandal in the last two years, Susmita Mitra said, “In 2020, we did all the rituals of Durga. It was all digital. But we got little collection (donations). In 2021, it was a little better. We moved to a bigger venue compared to 2020.”
Another well-known Durga Puja pandal is North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti in Juhu. The pandal started Durga Puja celebrations 75 years back under the leadership of Late Sashadhar Mukherji and Late Sati Rani Devi along with close friends and family members. It is popularly known as the Mukherji-Bari pujo.
North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti's protima of Durga Maa
"Our journey started 75 years back under the leadership of my parents, Late Sashadhar Mukherji and Late Sati Rani Devi who along with some close friends and family members started the Pujo which is popularly known as the Mukherji-Bari pujo. Over the years, new members have joined and the Puja from its humble beginnings has evolved into one of the largest and most high profile Puja where celebrities from the entertainment industry and corporate world join members and all visitors in celebrating Durga Puja," said Debu Mukherjee.
Sharing information about this year’s plan, he further added, “One of the USPs of our Puja is the manner in which all visitors become part of the celebration and are served bhog-prasad while seated in an airconditioned hall. The bhog is served by our members and volunteers and people get a chance to meet celebrities from the industry.”
“We plan to serve Bhog to over 15,000 devotees over the 3 days. Our biggest USP is the environment created where all devotees celebrate the spirit of Pujo along with celebrities from the entertainment industry, corporate big-wigs and children from special schools. It’s a time when people can leave their worries behind and enjoy the Pujo in the traditional manner with various cuisines being served in the stalls,” Samrat Mukherjee from North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti said.
Members of North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti
North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti installs an eco-friendly idol made of clay. The idol will be over 11 feet tall. As they are celebrating Platinum jubilee, the pandal has the theme of “Sheesh Mahal” inside a temple complex.
With Covid-19 still lurking around, the samiti has requested visitors to maintain distance, hygiene and recommended the use of face masks. They will be taking extra precautions by regularly cleaning the high-touch areas, use of biodegradable disposable plates for serving bhog, etc.
Shedding light on how Covid affected the pandal in the last two years, Samrat Mukherjee said, “Last two years have been challenging for all of us as we had members and their families being impacted by Covid. We did not celebrate Pujo at this large scale and organised the Pujo in a small hall just for members who had been vaccinated and were not classified as vulnerable. Covid also brought us closer as we all appreciate the value of life and what one needs to do for fellow citizens in their time of need.”
Another pandal known for its grand celebrations is DN Nagar Durga Puja organised by Indian Bangla Club at DN Nagar in Andheri. Speaking about the pandal, the organisers of the DN Nagar Durga Puja informed, “In its nine-year journey, we have witnessed a footfall of 40,000 devotees every year. We have always received great support from celebrities, delegates, entrepreneurs, media and especially our devotees. We have received support from celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Mika Singh, Shankar Mahadevan, Shaan and other important personalities. We had the record of the highest Durga idol in Mumbai, 24 feet to be precise, and our bhog-prasad was one of the most-talked about subjects. This year also we are organising the Puja in a grand way at Saraswati Hall & Ground, Ganesh Chowk, D.N. Nagar."
With no restrictions, they are arranging everything keeping the Covid protocols in mind. “We have arranged for food stalls, entertainment night, idol darshan, pushpanjali and aarti for all,” the organisers said.
The Goddess Durga idol is made of clay and this year the height is 8 feet. With Covid-19 still around, the pandal is following all the standard Covid protocols by the Government and BMC. There won't be entry without a mask, which will be provided at the venue along with sanitizer. There are no other restrictions imposed on the devotees. We welcome them all, the organisers of D.N Nagar Durga Puja pandal said.
Sharing information on how the pandemic affected the pandal, members of the pandal said that the impact of Covid has been devastating. “We had to unfortunately stop for two year but with Durga Maa's blessings we are back again,” they concluded.