1. In comparison with the wild, often outlandish, creativity of the south Calcutta pandals, the average pujo in the north of the city is usually a more traditional and sedate affair. Not at Hatibagan, where teabags and paper cranes were brought together in a bizarrely beautiful combination.
2. I saw at least three pandals featuring dolls and puppets this year. Badamtala Ashar Sangha celebrated the Navratris Rajasthani-style, with giant dolls of village belles dressed for garba. Tridhara Sammilani built enormous kathputlis or wooden dolls in an ode to childhood. My favourite among all of these, however, was at Hindustan Park, which created a virtual dollhouse stuffed with colourful wooden toys and dolls of every shape and size.
3. I visited Bhawanipur Abasar with my mother, who collects pipes, so this was a particular delight for her. The pandal this year featured handcrafted terracotta and cane decorations, and a canopy of clay chillums hung over a terracotta Durga.
4. A reliable showstopper is Suruchi Sangha. Every year, this award-winning pandal focuses on a different state, and this year’s theme was Tamil Nadu. The central idol was sculpted in white, and surrounded by black stone carvings of the different forms of Durga worshipped in the south.
5. The centrepiece of any pandal is the protima of Durga standing victorious atop the slain demon, Mahishasura, surrounded by her children. There are as many interpretations of Durga as there are puja committees, and they range from Botticelli beauties to pious Mothers and even the occasional Barbie doll. My favourite Durga, however, is the triumphant warrior goddess. At the Nalin Sarkar Street pandal in North Calcutta, Durga appeared all of a sudden at the end of a long and narrow corridor, ecstatic in her victory, a sight to lift the spirits of the most jaded pandal-hopper.
Pop-up: The Pujo pandals of Calcutta (2015)
In our first guest post from a guest city, Anisha Sharma picks and photographs 5 of the most innovative and stylish pujo pandals in Calcutta this year.
Anisha is a DPhil candidate in Economics at Balliol College, University of Oxford. She grew up in Calcutta and now lives in Delhi. For more pujo photos visit her Instagram account.