A Commodified Tradition?
Though acutely aware of the inconveniences associated with the orgiastic festivity, it can be seen why, properly handled, this efflorescence could be as much a tourist attraction as the Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro’s annual fiesta.
No wonder many denounce the frenzy as a waste of time, energy and resources, considering the insane amount of jubilee this festival entails. People decry a shallow faith that commercializes religion, and cite worthy causes like flood relief or rural medicine that could do with money.
Pandals are becoming more and more innovative. Images of pith and paper have replaced traditional clay. Aluminium, coconut fibre, bamboo reed, areca nut membrane, sand sculpture and even handloom fabrics are some of today’s imaginative materials.
Replications of the Red Fort and Victoria Memorial have given way to all the architectural wonders of the world, ancient and modern, as well as soaring space age structures and recreated villages.
Many pujas evoke a particular theme, historical or cultural.
Experts from the lighting industry in Chandernagore have gone to Dubai where expatriates celebrate Navaratri with great gusto, and London where Bengalis are honouring Durga on the Thames.
In these five days, shops spring up everywhere selling everything from sarees to sweets, kebab rolls to kitchen fittings. Shopping and eating are pursued with great gusto.
Evening crowds are entranced by the sinuous convolutions of arati dancers, smoke and incense, clash of cymbals, the tinkling bells and deep roll of drums.
This is living theatre. Let entertainment industry professionals put it in some order, with galleries for spectators, al fresco gastronomy, song, dance, variety entertainment and even voluntary participation for enterprising tourists during an exotic gala week.
Special limousines can follow the immersion processions and comfortable launches take visitors out for a mid-river view of the final ceremonies.
There is scope for the kind of inspired commentary that passengers on New York’s Staten Island ferry find so absorbing.
It is something that the Indian Tourism Development Corporation could sell abroad if it had a mind to.
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE, IVth SEMESTER
Roll No.: 107/MSW/1600011