CR Park in South Delhi neighborhood was created for people of East Bengal who lost their properties during partition. When the land was assigned to these individuals in 1960s, the entire area was surrounded by wild forests and one had to walk miles to get even the necessities. Amongst this wilderness, few residents placed an idol of Shiva which later became a temple to the goddess of Kali. And by the late 1970s, the annual Bengali fest of Durga Puja commenced. Since then, the locality became hot favourite amongst probashi who resides in Delhi.
Bengalis and Durga Puja go hand in hand. Chittaranjan Park (CR Park) is one of the important hubs of this celebration. The way this festival is celebrated has even evolved over a period. Where there used to be just one pandal few years back, today there are nearly ten pujas happening in the same neighborhood. The event has grown grander and grander with time.
Inevitably, this year’s celebration was also larger than life. The entrance of the pandals had long queues, barricaded with bamboos, leading to main premises of the event. Deluging with hundreds of people, the premise is open to go on different directions, serving different purpose, all inside the pandal. There is main pavilion where Maa Durga’s larger than life idol is placed. There is another stage for interactive sessions of Antakshari of old Bengali Puja songs. And there are food stalls serving delicious traditional Bengali food such as luchi ar kosha mangsho.
As closer you get to the pandal, Delhi’s own existence fades away. Constant Bengali is being spoken; Bengali songs are playing all around. Smell of incense mixed with dhunuchi accompanied by dhaak establishes its own cultural identity.
The pandals have their own significance. Earlier, the interpretation used to be construed in one traditional approach as oppose to now where every pandal is different from the other. This year, in one of the pandals, the theme was kept on saluting two legends of Indian film industry, Manna Dey and Hemanta Mukhopadhyay. The entrance of the pandal had effigy of the duo and the interior was decorated with their classic songs and themes such as “…coffee house er adda ta aaj ar nei”. There is gazillion of such intricacies which are symbol of true Bengali culture.
However, the question is whether the same grandeur and fervor will continue to exist in the future? But till then, the Bengalis, who gets extra nostalgic and emotional about their culture, have their little Bengal inside Delhi.