Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals of the year in West Bengal. For the four days of the festival, the streets are decorated in pretty lights, accessories and adornments.
Bengalis dress up in beautiful ethnic wear for the Puja and worship huge idols of Goddess Durga. The capital city hosts over 4,500 pujas every year. And while people marvel at the decorations arranged specially for the festival, the visually impaired have to compromise on appreciating this auspicious festival.
But thanks to the Samaj Sebi Sangha Puja in Kolkata, that won’t be the case this year!
The 73-year-old organisation has arranged for their puja to be accessible to the visually impaired so that they can enjoy the grandeur like other visitors.
Moreover, the pandal will have artists sawing and hammering into wooden planks as audio signals for them.
A huge installation of the face of Durga Devi welcomes the devotees at the puja. This unique idol is made up of 12,000 iron screws so the visually impaired can touch and feel the textures and features that are usually made from clay.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Dilip Banerjee, a former president of the puja, said, “Our artists have come up with these ideas after spending time with students of blind schools. Just as people who can see getting excited about Durga Puja when they see pandals coming up, the sound of sawing and nails being hammered into wooden planks makes the visually impaired realise that Puja is approaching.”
The inner walls of the pandal have artworks made by threading woollen and cotton strings on to many nails.
This is an activity that they usually enjoy at blind school, and here, they will be able to enjoy the readymade art.
Prayers and the words, “Ma” and “Jai Ma Durga” are written in Braille on the inside walls of the pandal, so the devotees can “read” them, just as the others recite the chants.
“Atop the pandal is a face with hands covering the eyes, which symbolically shows that the hands of the blind are their eyes. Right below this, there will be depictions of lunar and solar eclipses, where light is shown to leave one eye and enter another,” Arijit Maitra, the general secretary of the puja committee, told the publication.
This Durga Pujo in Kolkata is not just limited to making the experience enjoyable for the visually impaired. On its way out, the puja volunteers hand out registration forms, encouraging them to be eye donors. You can sign up here and ensure that at least one person gets the gift of vision after your passing.
A well-thought-of puja that is inclusive and unique, Samaj Sebi Sangha has shown how our auspicious occasions can be an inspiration to the society.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)