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It is now a cliché to say that Durga Puja in Calcutta is the largest street carnival in the world where artists compete with one another to shock and awe the viewers with their fabulous, increasingly out-of-the-box creations.  As an art lover I eagerly await Durga Puja to “pandal hop” and admire the genius behind the pandal spectacles.

This year the “cycle puja pandal” in Beleghata, Pali 33, literally took my breath away.  I arrived there at 7 am in the morning to beat the crowds and the oppressive heat, and to make sure I could take photographs without being jostled and hurried by the lines of people all eager to worship and relish the art on display.  Even without the advantage of the elaborate lighting, that I could see was all hooked up in tangled electric wires ubiquitous to the City, and only a handful of visitors at this early hour, the pandal throbbed with a frenetic energy.

This dynamism emanated from the speed and motion of numerous cyclists descending from heights to converge and pay their tributes to the Goddess below.  Cyclists thundered down walls and negotiated obstacle courses on trapeze like structures that surrounded the pandal and also formed a pathway above the entrance.  Meanwhile Goddess Durga, her abode adorned with cycle part offerings, was serenely tucked away from the decidedly male frenzy generated all around her.

The entire theme of this pandal was developed around the concept of the cyclist and cycle so it was composed of the various bicycle parts as the decorative motifs.  The chains, wheels, handle-bars and the seat that was cutely made to sport a pair of glasses, were on display in linear but eye catching design formations, mostly set against red cloth backgrounds for maximum dramatic effect.  The entire cycle itself was a decorative motif too.

The idea that the various cycles and their parts will be reassembled and be given away to those who need them, was another very attractive feature of this prize-winning pandal, voted by several corporations and prize-awarding puja committees as best pandal 2017.  Last year, based on the yellow taxi theme, Pali 33 also stole some of the top awards in the City.

The entire concept and structure of this pandal was a fabulous installation worthy of being shown in any art fair anywhere in the world.

The Durga Puja brings together genius of the Bengali spirit that combines their love for art and theater to create durable spectacles that enchant millions of viewers throughout the festival.  The “cycle pandal” is clearly a brilliant example of artistic innovation, skillful design and the high voltage impact of public art.

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