Let’s Get Back To Celebrating Durga Puja The Odisha Way

Just two days ago, the twin city Bhubaneswar Cuttack bid adieu to Maa Durga with a vibrant DJ Night marking the end of the ten-day festive season with an expenditure that runs into crores. The scale of the festivity appears to be more of a cultural rivalry between a couple of neighbourhoods than a festival with which the state of Odisha can be identified.

Kolkata enjoys the UNESCO World Heritage Status because of its unique Durga Puja celebrations. The state government has managed to turn Durga Puja into a huge carnival.

But back home in the twin city, a significant population of the youth now treats the Puja as a weeklong cultural fiesta, with all the traditional rituals, pujas, and Bhakti Bhava taking a backseat or often, no seat at all. Unlike the Bengali Pujo, in Cuttack, people treat it as a family get-together that begins with Ganesha Puja, continues with Bali Jatra, and culminates with Durga Puja.

While Durga Puja in Cuttack has a 200-year-old history, in Bhubaneswar, it is a little over half a century old. Durga Puja in Cuttack dates back to Chaitanya, the Hindu saint who visited the city sometime between 1512–1517 and worshiped Devi Durga while staying in Gadagadia Ghat, once a gateway to this part of Odisha. It is believed he worshipped her in Balu Bazar, a tradition that continued in the Bengali and Odia community. Balu Bazar Durga Pandal still practices the traditional way of worshiping Goddess Durga having the distinction of showcasing one of the tallest Medha made of silver Filigree.

Interestingly, Choudhry Bazar houses one of the organisers of Puja Pandals, which first introduced the silver filigree Medha in 1956. Some gold ornaments were added in 2002. Today, it has expanded to 30 pandals, out of the 150 that host Durga Puja in the. For many devotees, the silver and gold ornaments that adorn the deity are a big attraction every year.

Silver filigree and gold work used in backdrop called Medha & Ornaments etc work has now become a matter of competition with each pandal organiser trying to outdo the other.

Bhubaneswar Cuttack would be much more friendly and culturally rich if all those who are involved in organising Durga Puja did not indulge in all the extravaganza that is not related to the spirit of the festival. Odisha would still be able to retain its unique identity as a state where Durga Puja is celebrated with gusto. Perhaps the reason that the Durga Puja of Odisha has not made it to the national front is that we have ended up turning it into a carnival.

In the clamour to pander to consumerist culture and popular taste, we have diluted the uniqueness of the festival as it is traditionally celebrated in our state. In the process, we have forgotten to showcase to the world that the Durga Puja celebrated in Odisha is different from the one celebrated in West Bengal.

I think it’s great that there is a vibrant, festive community celebration but the personal connection & devotion to the divine should not be lost due to that. It has become an annual opportunity to partake in food, buy new clothes, do pandal hopping and indulge in one-upmanship in the neighbourhood.

Traditionally, Durga Puja meant spending time as a family, cooking traditional food and prasad, listening to Chandi Path Mantras, offering flowers to the deity at home and receiving Durga’s transformative supernatural blessings.


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