Mumbai's 1.25 million Bengalis are all set to celebrate Durga Puja,
starting Oct 20, with a liberal dose of Bollywood glamour with
celebrities and commoners converging for the community's biggest
religious festival in Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and other suburban towns.
year, the themes of most 'sarvajanik' (community) Durga pujas revolve
around Swami Vivekananda, whose 150th birth anniversary is being
celebrated during 2012-13, and environment awareness in view of the
ecological disasters looming over humanity, said community historian and
social worker Prasanta Kundu.
The celebrations this time have an added zest and pride as a Bengali has come to occupy the country's highest post for the first time - President Pranab Mukherjee.
"The entire community is proud, happy and pray for President Pranabda Mukherjee who has brought such a great honour to all of us," retired Bollywood actor Biswajit, told IANS.
At the Juhu Scheme Sarvanajik Durgotsav Samiti, which will attract over 50,000 people to worship the 14 feet tall idol, Biswajit has organised an exhibition of '100 Years of Indian Cinema' - "It is my salute to the centenary of Indian Cinema," smiled the actor.
The star-studded festivities shall be held at around 105 public marquees, up from 98 last year (2011) and 85 the previous year (2010) and estimated total spending would be around Rs.45 crore this year in view of inflation and galloping fuel prices, Kundu told IANS.
Starting Oct 20, Shashthi (sixth day), and ending Oct 24, Maha-Dashami, the Durga Puja will seen the enthusiastic participation of Bengalis living and working in Mumbai and members of other communities.
But one major personality will be missed during the Durga Puja season - Joy Mukherjee, who died earlier this year.
According to Kundu, Joy's widow and son will carry forward his tradition in Juhu.
Incidentally, the famed north Bombay Sarvajanik Durgotsav, started by actress Rani Mukherjee's family, has been forced to shift her celebrations to a five-star hotel this year as the regular venue, Balkan-ji Bari, was not available.
In its 57th year now, it will be now held with the usual pomp and show at the Tulip Star Hotel in Juhu, and the highlight would be Rani and Kajol personally serving the 'bhog' to the devotees on the second day.
Playback singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya will host a star-studded mega-budget event at his Durga pandal in Andheri with a 21-feet tall idol.
Ace director Basu Chatterjee will continue to be the moving force behind the Bandra Durga Puja, started many decades ago by legendary filmmaker Shakti Samanta.
The Ramkrishna Mission at Khar is the only venue where a pre-puberty girl is worshipped as Goddess Durga in a 'Kumari Puja' on Ashtami Day, which is a major draw among devotees, said social activist M. Bose.
Only the Bengal Club's Durga celebration at Shivaji Park will have all functions during the day, adhering to the noise pollution restrictions recommended by the Bombay High Court.
In Sion, Indian Air Force personnel will organise a 'puja' in a small way with a low budget, while Indian Navy personnel hold it in Navy Nagar, and Air India staffers at Juhu.
In Goregaon, a sarvajanik puja is organised by an all-women association.
Nearly a dozen of the big pujas are organised on extensive budgets, ranging from Rs.5 million to Rs.20 million, while the rest are modestly estimated, ranging from Rs.400,000 to Rs.2 million, Kundu added.
Since this is the biggest public festival after the 10-day Ganeshotsav which ended earlier this month, the Mumbai police and individual associations have made elaborate security arrangements for the Navrati-Durga Puja events.
Aiming to outdo each other, a Durgotsav association in Navi Mumbai has planned a 'Shah Rukh Khan Live' night at the marquee which has evoked mixed reactions from the community members.
While some feel it is a good way of paying tribute during the centenary year of Indian cinema, others opine that religion and entertainment should not be mixed.
A few Bengali goldsmiths initiated the Durga Puja tradition here 92 years ago (in 1920) in a modest way to keep alive their traditions back home. Today, it has become a major calendar event in the country's commercial capital.
Spread far and wide in the city, suburbs and adjoining districts of Thane and Raigad, major Durga-pujas are held in Vasai-Virar, Dadar-Parel, Mira Road-Bhayender, Chembur, Thane city, Vashi, Ambernath, Seawoods, Andheri-Bandra and Grant Road.
Another big association, the Durgabari Samiti, which holds its function at Tejpal Hall off the August Kranti Maidan, is frequented by top Bengali corporate heads, bureaucrats, police officers and other celebrities.
Pragati at Vasai-East, which is known for its topical themes, is planning a theme of the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, said one of the organisers, M. Bose.