Bengalis in Mumbai gear up for Durga Puja
The estimated total spending would be around Rs 45 crore this year in view of inflation and galloping fuel prices.
Mumbai/Thane: Mumbai's 1.25 million Bengalis are all set to celebrate Durga Puja, starting 20 October, with celebrities and commoners converging for the community's biggest religious festival in Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and other suburban towns.
This year, the themes of most 'sarvajanik' (community) Durga pujas revolve around Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated during 2012-13, and environment awareness in view of the ecological disasters looming over humanity, said community historian and social worker Prasanta Kundu.
The celebrations this time have an added zest and pride as a Bengali has come to occupy the country's highest post for the first time — President Pranab Mukherjee.
"The entire community is proud, happy and pray for President Pranabda Mukherjee who has brought such a great honour to all of us," retired Bollywood actor Biswajit, told IANS.
At the Juhu Scheme Sarvanajik Durgotsav Samiti, which will attract over 50,000 people to worship the 14 feet tall idol, Biswajit has organised an exhibition of '100 Years of Indian Cinema' — "It is my salute to the centenary of Indian Cinema," smiled the actor.
The star-studded festivities shall be held at around 105 public marquees, up from 98 last year (2011) and 85 the previous year (2010) and estimated total spending would be around Rs 45 crore this year in view of inflation and galloping fuel prices, Kundu told IANS.
But one major personality will be missed during the Durga Puja season - Joy Mukherjee, who died earlier this year.
According to Kundu, Joy's widow and son will carry forward his tradition in Juhu.
Incidentally, the famed north Bombay Sarvajanik Durgotsav, started by actress Rani Mukherjee's family, has been forced to shift her celebrations to a five-star hotel this year as the regular venue, Balkan-ji Bari, was not available.
In its 57th year now, it will be now held with the usual pomp and show at the Tulip Star Hotel in Juhu, and the highlight would be Rani and Kajol personally serving the 'bhog' to the devotees on the second day.
Playback singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya will host a star-studded mega-budget event at his Durga pandal in Andheri with a 21-feet tall idol.
Ace director Basu Chatterjee will continue to be the moving force behind the Bandra Durga Puja, started many decades ago by legendary filmmaker Shakti Samanta.
The Ramkrishna Mission at Khar is the only venue where a pre-puberty girl is worshipped as Goddess Durga in a 'Kumari Puja' on Ashtami Day, which is a major draw among devotees, said social activist M. Bose.
Only the Bengal Club's Durga celebration at Shivaji Park will have all functions during the day, adhering to the noise pollution restrictions recommended by the Bombay High Court.
In Sion, Indian Air Force personnel will organise a 'puja' in a small way with a low budget, while Indian Navy personnel hold it in Navy Nagar, and Air India staffers at Juhu.
In Goregaon, a sarvajanik puja is organised by an all-women association.
Nearly a dozen of the big pujas are organised on extensive budgets, ranging from Rs.5 million to Rs.20 million, while the rest are modestly estimated, ranging from Rs.400,000 to Rs.2 million, Kundu added.
Since this is the biggest public festival after the 10-day Ganeshotsav which ended earlier this month, the Mumbai police and individual associations have made elaborate security arrangements for the Navrati-Durga Puja events.
Aiming to outdo each other, a Durgotsav association in Navi Mumbai has planned a 'Shah Rukh Khan Live' night at the marquee which has evoked mixed reactions from the community members.
While some feel it is a good way of paying tribute during the centenary year of Indian cinema, others opine that religion and entertainment should not be mixed.
A few Bengali goldsmiths initiated the Durga Puja tradition here 92 years ago (in 1920) in a modest way to keep alive their traditions back home. Today, it has become a major calendar event in the country's commercial capital.
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