The dhaak and the fragrance of shiuli and dhunuchi are back on the streets of Mumbai after a hiatus of two long years. Back in 2019, nobody had imagined that they would be cooped up in their homes for two years. Given how dismal puja celebrations have been during the pandemic, this year, it’s going to be grander and extra special than usual. And to ensure that, artistes, organisers and committee members have put together a grand celebration with new themes and cultural events.
As the festivities of Durga Puja kick start from October 1, here are five puja pandals in Mumbai that you need to visit this year. From women dhakis to inviting specially-abled children and trans women, puja in Mumbai is all about inclusivity this year.
1. Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, Tejpal Hall
After two years of digital and hybrid Puja, Bombay Durga Bari Samiti is back with a bang at Tejpal Hall. This year, they have invited a group of specially-abled children to come and be a part of the festivities for a day, have bhog and enjoy some entertainment programmes. Mitali Poddar, chairperson of BDBS, said, “We have also organised a show by a group of talented and underprivileged children, giving them the BDBS platform to perform. The dhaaki group is visiting from interior villages of West Bengal to showcase their skills and keep us entertained throughout the puja days. They will be performing everyday during aarti and also during bhog.” Like every year, the Maa Durga idol is eco-friendly - the structure is made from bamboo, jute and clay which are completely biodegradable and even the paints used are organic.
2. Spandan Powai Sharadotsav
The Spandan Powai Sharadotsav has invited women dhakis (traditional drummers of Bengal), sanitary workers and their families to be a part of the celebration. Some of the programmes that celebrate diversity include felicitation of specially-abled people and supporting a centre for stray dogs. Prosun Roy, President of Spandan Foundation says, “This year, our pandal construction has been entrusted to a woman entrepreneur. With #UnboxHumanity as its tagline, we intend to create a bold, impactful, and inclusive environment by unboxing societal preconceptions.”
3. Bengal Club Durga Puja, Shivaji Park
Located in the heart of the city, it’s not only one of the biggest Durga Puja but also among Mumbai’s oldest Durga Pujas. However, this year’s pujo is extra special as the club marks its 100th year, and will celebrate their 87th Durgotsab. Bollywood art director Nitin Desai has designed the pandal which is inspired by the architecture of old temples of Kolkata. Prasoon Rakshit, convener of the Media committee said, “Bengal Club Durga Puja has always performed as per rituals. We are among few organisations that perform Kumari Puja on Navami day. Devi idol height is about 17 feet which is the tallest in the city. All idols are made with clay from river Ganges and the paints used are also eco-friendly.”
However, the special highlight of the pandal is their initiative to create a transgender inclusive environment, for which they have invited trans-woman Navya Singh to participate in ‘sindoor khela’ this year.
4. North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja
To mark its 75th year, the North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja will feature a 11 feet tall eco-friendly idol of Durga and the pandal has the theme of Sheesh Mahal inside a temple complex. The celebrations will include cultural performances by popular artists paying tribute to the Late Bollywood singer, Bappi Lahiri.
5. Navi Mumbai Bengali Association Durga Puja
The Navi Mumbai Bengali Association Durga Puja is known for its grandeur, cultural programmes and heavy footfall. Bengalis from all parts of the city make sure they visit this pandal and be a part of the celebrations and immerse in the festive fervour. This year they have an eco-friendly idol especially made by artisans from Bengal. Apart from the various cultural activities, the venue will also see special music concerts by popular Bollywood artists such as Shaan.