Kolkata: As different pandals adopt different themes for their Durga Puja celebrations, one prominent puja committee that has recreated 'pink city' Jaipur at its venue has chosen blue and white as its colour code! Many say this is to please West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who after taking over, got this city painted in these twin colours. Even Goddess Durga would not be able to save herself from the 'blues' as she will be draped in blue and white, colours that now adorn everything from flyovers to tree trunks in Kolkata.
It is the Panchattar Palli community puja in Banerjee's Bhowanipore assembly constituency that has recreated the Rajasthan capital, with the goddess astride a lion shunning her traditional red sari for blue and white. The pandal, patronised by Trinamool Congress leaders Madan Mitra and Saugata Roy, has even painted the facade of all houses on the road leading to the pandal blue and white.
"Puja is the biggest festival in Bengal, so we thought of paying a tribute to our leader who has always championed the causes of the poor by choosing the colour code which is her favourite," Malay Sarkar of the organising committee said. He, however, conceded that it took much effort to cajole the rest of the organisers and the priests to drape the goddess in blue and white instead of the traditional red.
Parliamentarian Saugata Roy, however, said he had no hand in choosing the theme. "I am just an honorary member of the committee and do not take part in decision making. The committee must have found the idea interesting. So they chose it," Roy said. If you thought the Bhowanipore Puja was an exception, think again. Many pandals, not only in the city but even in the districts, have been daubed in blue and white.
In localities where Trinamool supporters hold sway, at least one Puja in the area can be seen following the colour code. As many as four big and small Puja pandals are following the blue and white colour code in Bhowanipore alone. However, traditionalists are not at all happy with the dramatic change. "Durga is the symbol of power and the colour red, which signifies power, has always been associated with her. Changing that colour completely goes against ritualistic norms and Hindu customs," Indologist Manab Chatterjee said.
While the Left may sarcastically say the colour code was more an inspiration coming from Banerjee's slippers, many of her aides claim it is inspired by Mother Teresa's cotton sari. Banerjee's ministerial colleagues assert the colours signify the state's development. Forward Bloc member Ali Imran Ramz was expelled from the assembly after he quipped that the state government's concept of painting the city blue and white has been derived from the chief minister's bathroom slippers of the same colour combination.
"Since the sky is the limit for Bengal's impending development, and white is the sum total of all colours and symbolises peace and harmony, our leader came up with this colour combination," Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said, defending Banerjee's diktat to paint the city blue and white. Along with road medians, flyovers, tree trunks and walls of government offices, even policemen under the newly-created commissionerates will shed their customary old khaki uniforms for blue caps, white shirts and dark blue trousers.
The state home department had ordered the switch, to be implemented at Bidhannagar, Howrah, Barrackpore, Asansol and Siliguri commissionerates, as part of an image makeover. The 'war of the colours' followed the change in the regime. Since coming to power, Banerjee's Trinamool Congress has seen to it that the colour red - historically associated with the Communist ideology - is rendered to the back benches.
In Banerjee's Bengal, now people are accorded a 'green carpet welcome', even if he happens to be President Pranab Mukherjee or Governor M.K. Narayanan. The city's Trinamool-run municipal corporation is considering giving property tax rebate to citizens if they follow the blue-white colour blend. Ironically enough, the colour code diktat originated from a red edifice - the Writers' Buildings, the state's seat of power. But much to Banerjee's chagrin, being a heritage structure, the Writers' cannot go the new way.
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