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Durga Puja Cashes In

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If you come to Kolkata right now you will find a city transformed. Its Durga Puja the biggest festival of the year when the Goddess Durga comes home. The city is dotted with pandals, temporary makeshift temples for the five days of the festival.

Some look like castles, some like ancient temples, this year there’s one that looks like the Titanic and one that’s like Disneyland and then there is samaj sebi in south kolkata

At first glance their pandal looks odd. It seems to be plastered with ads. For all kinds of stuff. Clothes. Household wares. Food. A small image of the 10 armed goddess Durga outside has ten shopping bags for her 10 arms. Pretty handy for shopping. There’s a reason says organiser Arijit Mitra

AM1:  You can see during this puja, the Kolkata is filled with this. Hoardings and banners and advertisements and all different offers are coming in

Durga Puja is a huge religious festival. Its also increasingly an art festival, designated as intangible heritage by UNESCO, each pandal a temporary art installation. But it’s also big big business.

And the Samaj Sebi Durga Puja pays tribute to the economy of Durga Puja

This is Sandip Roy in Kolkata

The festival is now a major driver of the state’s economy says Debanjan Chakrabarti the director of British Council East and NorthEast India which commissioned a report on it. Its estimate?

DC1: the total economic worth of Durga Puja in 2019 was a little over $4.5 billion. And we tend to forget that 2019 was actually a bad economic year.

It’s not just a festival. Its an industry

DC2: that's about just a shade under 3% of the state's GDP from a ten day festival.

Of course every big festival whether Christmas or Thanksgiving or India’s own Diwali is big business. But we think of that mostly as retail Christmas and thanksgiving sales. Durga Puja is more than retail though of course that’s a big part of it. Samaj Sebi’s Durgja Puja includes a sound installation of Durga Puja sales


As you enter Samaj Sebi it pays tribute to the business of Durga Puja with a wall of little clauy figurines each involved in their own craft. Selling ice creams, balloons, street food, everyone hoping this festiv season will be good business says Arijit Mitra

AM2: They actually wait for this Durga Puja. When this Durga Puja will come and they will get some money out of it. So we have depicted this area to those sellers. I can see this ice cream seller. This is a sweet seller here that we see during the fairs. 

Samaj Sebi club raises money from their neighbourhood and sponsors.. then that money goes down the chain.

AM3: We are actually linked with each other. So we are earning some the company who is sponsoring us, giving us money. We are giving money to them to work for us and they and then giving to their family to run their family. So these are all linked with each other.

Debanjan Chakrabarti says the Durga Puja is more than a celebration. Its a lifeline.

DC3: We also realised that they were artists and artisan communities who were earning between 60 to 100% of their recorded annual income through just one festival

Like drummer Dol Das who has been summoned by the government from his village to play for Durga Puja in the city. He says this is big money season. So


DD1:Durga puro mota taka pawa jaay

There are artists who make the clay images, painters, electricians, welders, those who make the jewellery for the goddess out of plant pith. drummers, highly paid theme designers and those who do the manual labour of lugging the clay images around.

A display shows rupee notes with their faces on them.


Speaker1: They are like a note. 

AM: The cash flow is there. The the huge amount of transaction is going on through Durga Puja and the the money is flowing to them also. So they are actually the foundation of this society. They are working for us, they are building this kind of installations and they are working for 100 days. They have started this work from July and now it's October. 

And at the end of it all is the Goddess. And she is depicted like a tree. Because she provides the shelter under which this whole ecosystem flourishes.

AM5: we are under one umbrella. So that is Maa Durga and she is the umbrella under which we all are working. And we are earning some money and and we are running our family on her blessing. 

Happy Durga Puja this is Sandip Roy in Kolkata.