Many Durga Puja committees in West Bengal have chosen the theme of the hardships faced by migrant labourers while returning home during lockdown to COVID-19 pandemic issue for the five-day festival starting from October 22.
While the journey of migrants and their plight in the first few months of lockdown struck a chord with many organisers, others have either paid tribute to COVID-19 warriors or showed coronavirus as the demon Mahisasura to be destroyed by the Goddess.
The festival is relatively low key this year due to the pandemic and economic recession triggered by the lockdown, but many Durga Puja organisers have still pitched for theme-based puja like in past years on contemporary issues, designing pandal decoration, illumination and interiors – a trend prevalent for the past 20 years.
Taking up the migrant issue, Barisha Club, in the southern fringes of city, has installed the idol of a woman pausing for a while on the road trail with a baby in her lap and two children.
“She is our Durga. Eight other hands are seen on the background. She epitomises the migrant labourers’ pain, cries, suffering and resilience when business activities came to nil and road communication stopped. But still, the migrant labourers did not stay back. They boarded vehicles on their own, walked thousands of miles, collapsed but again stood up. This is our tribute to the migrants,” a puja committee spokesman said.
At Naktala Udayan Sangha, a truck has been put up near the marquee with models of migrant labourers, scrambling to get on board the vehicle.
“Our pandal is called waves. It reflects the waves of returning migrants from different corners. We have employed migrant labourers from different districts to portray the theme,” puja committee office-bearer Anjan Das said.
The return of migrant labourers on various modes of transport – on cycle, truck – or by walking miles, has been depicted through mural works and models in the pandal of Kestopur Prafullakanon Paschim Adhibasibrindo, Secretary Ranjit Chakraborty said.
“Our pandal will be inaugurated by the migrants who were working round the clock since past one month and during inauguration the entire locality will be plunged into darkness for a while to show respect to the migrants who had died during return,” Mr Chakraborty said.
The battle of covid warriors against the pathogen also features in pandals.
At Salt Lake’s A K Block, models of vendors, phuchka seller, vegetable sellers are put up on the two sides of the pandal.
“Our pandal is themed on the hardships faced by these people, who work in big cities to eke out living from their faraway homes in villages. This is our way of remembering their hardships during the lockdown,” a spokesman of the puja committee Raja Banik said.