apartment pujas are awesome

Community Pujas Vs. Apartment Pujas: A Difference Between Splendour And Soul?

Festivals have always been a special and important part of the Bengali culture, not only for its rituals, traditions, and the different customs but also for its bonhomie and togetherness. But nothing compares to the essence that Durga Puja holds in the hearts of the Bengalis.

Regardless of the geographical location, where there are Bengalis, there will be Durga Puja! Even though much of the look and feel of this festival has changed over the years, there has been not the slightest dent in the interest or the fervour that comes along with it. Even the rising inflation has not been able to daunt our enthusiasm; the Durga Puja industry in Bengal continues to grow exponentially.

Be it the big-budget community Pujas or the relatively smaller apartment celebrations, the ardour and the festive spirit of the season run strong at this time of the year.

The Unmistakable Splendour of the Modern Community Pujas

The community pujas of today are the origin of the concept of pandal hopping. Talking about Sarbajanin or Community Pujas, there are certain things that make it a much awaited annual affair during the autumn every year in West Bengal.

These are the typical Pujas that are based on innovative themes and come with huge budgets with celebrities and eminent personalities to glorify the whole affair even more. One might feel that the modern community Pujas is more commercialized than ever. With competitions and cash prizes being organized nowadays, these communities are always trying to grab the limelight with awe-inspiring designs, idols, and themes. As a result, they are hugely successful in pulling the crowd towards them and making headlines in the daily newspapers.

apartment pujas are social

These are the biggest factors that draw people to these community pandals. While some plan a late night hangout with their families and friends, others like to visit the pandals during the wee hours of the morning. One might even get weary and hungry by walking and waiting in the serpentine queues, but nothing can stop them from pandal-hopping. And, not to miss the spread of the famously delicious street food of Kolkata, ranging from phuchkas, Kathi rolls to the famous Kolkata Biriyani.

Community pujas are worth experiencing, for they have truly become an affair that is larger than life. You might even consider them to be a very modern take of the otherwise traditional festival.

But, there are few pujas that have still been able to hold onto the tradition, in spite of the race for being bigger, better and grabbing more awards than its competitors.

The Spirit of the Housing Complex or Apartment Pujas

Before the rise of the lavish community pujas, DurgaPuja, used to be the exclusive privilege of the ‘Rajbaris’ or families with Royal Lineage, where the festivities would begin by Mahalaya, as the household members, especially the women in these families got ready to welcome Devi Uma to her abode on earth.

However, with the changing the times, as the societal fabric in Bengal underwent changes, the celebration of Durga Puja also transformed. The earlier concepts of joint families disintegrated, giving rise to nuclear families. As the sizes of families shrunk, their economic conditions reduced, which in turn impacted their capacity to bear expenses incurred for Durga Puja at home. As a result, many heritage family pujas either stopped or shrunk in proportions.

As more and more families started residing in apartments instead of their big traditional homes, the erstwhile “barir puja” (Durga Puja in traditional homes) has taken on a modified form as today’s apartment pujas.

apartment pujas are family gatherings

The apartment pujas have gained much popularity today, as people try to find the lost harmony, fraternity, warmth, unity, and the happiness of a festival that is decked up not only in lights but also the laughter and cheer of the residents. They have embraced this compact and endearing form of “barir puja” amidst their busy schedules.

Apartment pujas are typically marked by the unity in diversity, which can be seen rarely in most community pujas. And some of them are even helmed by the womenfolk, who organize the puja, and take care of everything starting from the decoration and food arrangements, to welcoming guests, and even organizing musical nights and soirees. Needless to say, the fun and gala in the apartment pujas are no less vibrant.

The Elemental Differences

When it comes to the differences between community and apartment pujas, it would not be wrong to say that the former is mostly known for its fame and publicity, owing to online and media buzz, while the apartment pujas have an emotive appeal.

Community pujas are an opportunity for the artisans to showcase their brilliant craftsmanship to the public eye. Sponsorship is a big factor, and community or social pujas are incomplete without hoardings of the advertisements of these sponsors.

Apartment Pujas which are of a much lesser budget, are mostly confined to residential campuses. But these are just like a complete family gathering — they reflect and promote the closeness, intimacy, and bonding among residents. They do lack that distinct buzz or commercialisation. Although few of these apartments take part in puja competitions organised by print or electronic media, the traditional customs are still intact.

Despite the Differences, the Spirit is the Same

During Durga Puja, be it of the community pujas or the apartment pujas, the one thing that cannot be missed out is the adda or friendly chat sessions with friends, family, flatmates, or even complete strangers. A true Bengali swears their life on such sessions that have topics anything from shoes to world affairs. And Durga Puja is such an occasion when adda sessions see an amalgamation of people from every location and of every age from seven to seventy.

In spite of various differences, Durga Puja is a festival that joins hearts and spreads cheer and mirth amongst all. And no matter where it is celebrated or how small or big the puja pandal is, everyone is equally welcome to partake in the joy of this festival, in their own ways.

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