This year we witnessed a number of Durga Puja Pandals which revolved around cities and areas in the country. They ranged from Varanasi, to Amritsar, and Simla, Ajanta and the tea gardens.

However, the most controversial of these was the pandal dedicated to the Golden Temple in Amritsar (at 22 Pally). The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) objected to the replica as they stated the Golden Temple was a religious place “that has its own sanctity, traditional religious practices and maryada” (Sikh code of religious conduct) and hence any look-alike structure was tantamount to mocking the religious site and hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community.

The Varanasi Pandal (Jatin Mukherjee Park) was beautifully recreated to feel like the steps to the ghats with a number of painted boats reflected in the water. Colorful umbrellas and buildings similar to those in Varanasi were captured at this pandals.

The Ahiritola Sarbojanin Durgotsab Samity at Beniatala’s was entitled Ajante or unknown, and artist Tanmoy Chakraborty recreated the famous historic stepwell of Rani ki Vav in Gujarat. His theme revolved around the persisting water crisis in the country. The stepwell was rediscovered in the 1940s, and features some of the most flawless Maru-Gurjara architectural detailing, which has been re-imagined as part of the Ahiritola mandap.

The tea gardens (Abasar Pandal) on steppes took you back to the hills and the large courtyard and the Buddhist prayer bells, flags, and a weaponless Durga looking very much like a Nepali idol welcoming visitors to the area.

The Shimla hill station-based pandal (Sandhani Bikepol) was a simple one except that the inside was air-conditioned making visitors feel like they were actually in Shimla rather than the humid and soggy streets of Kolkata.

Hence, we felt that Ma Durga was present everywhere – from Amritsar and Shimla to Gujarat, Varanasi and the hill stations.

Photo credits: Tehnaz Dastoor