Back in the 1960s and 1970, this was the kind of music played in Calcutta (now Kolkata) during Durga Puja, the Bengali Hindus’ biggest festival lasting four days, which starts today. Of course, Bengali and Hindi music dominated the medley blaring out of loudspeakers from the puja pandals – colourful marquees adorned with beautiful images of Ma Durga slaying Mahishashura, the demon with a human face and the body of a bullock.
Ma Durga stood on a lion flanked by her daughters, Laxmi (goddess of wealth) and Sarawati (goddess of learning), on one side and her sons, Ganesha (remover of obstacles) and Kartik on the other, with her husband, Lord Shiva, also present.
Bengalis dressed in new clothes flocked to the pandals all day and night and worshipped the goddess.
The crowds and the Pujas continue, but the music has changed. I don’t think one can hear the Ventures playing Wipe Out any more. But the drummer here sounds almost the drummers who pound the big Indian drums called dhaks with sticks at puja pandals.
People visit Singapore to see the Christmas decorations, and indeed the New Year Countdown in Singapore is a spectacular experience.
But Durga Puja – simply called the Pujas – in Calcutta is something one should see at least once in a lifetime. The puja pandals built to resemble ancient temples and world landmarks out of all kinds of material are miracles of creativity and the images created by renowned artists and potters are a sight to behold. I wonder if Christmas anywhere is celebrated with as much pomp and gaiety as Durga Puja. But it is definitely not for anyone suffering from agoraphobia — or acousticophobia for that matter. The teeming crowds and the high-decibel music can be a bit too much.