CERTIFICATEThis is to certify that DEBADIPA MUKHOPADHYAY, Roll Number: 107/MSW/160011, and Registration Number 146-1221-0228-13, a student of Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (Session: 2016-2018) has submitted the dissertation paper entitled “A STUDY ON DURGA PUJO AND ITS CHANGING TRADITIONS” for partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Degree of Masters in Social Welfare examination 2018 of the University of Calcutta under my supervision.
Dr. Gita Khawas(Visiting Professor)Department of Social WelfareIISWBMKolkataACKNOWLEDGEMENTTo conduct a research as a beginner is not that easy. It requires an adequate knowledge and understanding of the subject and guidance on the methods to start and carry out a project.The task was not a simple one but the task got simplified and interesting for me due to the tedious efforts of Dr. Gita Khawas and Dr.
Dulali Nag.I am grateful to my professors for the guidance and cooperation without which the study would not have been possible to conduct.I am also grateful to the respondents who gave their valuable time in responding to my questions. DEBADIPA MUKHOPADHYAYM.S.
W IInd YearDEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARERoll Number: 107/MSW/160011Registration Number: 146-1221-0228-13CONTENTS Topic Pg. No.INTRODUCTION 4-8LITERATURE REVIEW 9-15METHODOLOGY 16-18FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS 19-37CONCLUSION 38-39APPENDIX 1: Bibliography 40-41APPENDIX 2: Questionnaire 42-45INTRODUCTIONThe goddess can be recognized by her step.
Virgil, The Aeneid, I, 405.In the month of September-October when the season ‘Sarat’ brings a bunch of white clouds in the blue sky, the whole of Bengal celebrates ‘Durgapuja’, Bengali’s biggest festival. When beautiful kashful (grass flower) paints the green land with a touch of white, the goddess Parbati visits her father’s home (i.e. earth) with her four children Ganesh, Kartik, Saraswati, Laxmi for five days and her arrival is celebrated with a great enthusiasm. The wave of enthusiasm flows all across the Bengal with a spirit of togetherness.Ghosh writes, “The city-scapes acquires a new dimension which is illusive and real at the same time, ‘A post-modern exhibition’ that pays no heed to time, place, country and culture.”If one goes around asking any Bengali living anywhere around the world, he or she would definitely maintain that Durga Puja is the festival for him, that he waits for all year round.
The amount of anticipation and preparation that goes into arranging one small traditional Durga Puja, even if it is restricted to a nuclear family, is immense and unimaginable for an outsider. Even in such circumstances, the scalability is extremely overwhelming. There has been an ever increasing hype amongst the people of the city to visit and marvel at the grandeur of famous Pujas around the city. The amount of grandeur is hardly ever judged by just the idols – the pandals, the decorations and the organisation of relentless crowd, throughout the day and the night, are all considered for evaluation by an average Bengali. Hence, in the last few decades, innumerable themes for Durga Puja have largely come into fashion. Each group of organisers have put all their effort into making their own Puja grander than the rest. That is exactly where commercialization of a religious ritual has come into being, and has been growing, like termites on unkempt wood, in most of the Pujas for the past few decades.
At one level, Durga puja is all about being an exhibition. This is where the goddess, with the festivity that surrounds her, meets the metropolis at large, for the entire city becomes one ongoing exhibition. The city stands transformed—into fantasyland palaces, make-believe fortresses, historical monuments, and glittering golden barge. Altogether kaleidoscopic wanderings and displaced cartographies become one huge ‘spectatorial complex’, with a point of view veering between that of the flâneur and that of the stalker. Call it transportation or transference or even transversal, this making of one thing into something else is what captures the essence of Durga puja as a public art: transferring the familiar locality into the magical; a small piece of land into something large, almost huge; crafts into art; workmen into craftsmen; craftsmen into artists; folk art into what can be called (high) modernist folk art, and so on. Nothing is impossible in the catholicity of representational choices: Jaipur’s HawaMahal (Palace of Wind), the Bangalore Vidhana Soudha (Assembly House), the Senate building of Kolkata University, a church from Tsarist Russia, European castles, the gigantic wreck of the Titanic, a model of the Columbia space shuttle, the Hansheswari Temple of nearby Banshbaria, a dilapidated zamindari mansion complete with wild foliage and creepers. Nothing can remain purely religious in its rendition.
Durga puja is a giant factory of ‘secular mass identity’. (Ray, 2017)Evidently commercialisation has become so much a part of the norm that it is hardly noticed. Instead, community pujas which did not rely on advertisements and corporate sponsorship, during a survey of selected pujas often specifically mentioned their dependence on public subscriptions from the neighbourhood as a mark of local solidarity.Yet commercialization and globalisation has in a sense always been a part of the Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata.
One of the earliest and notable city pujas was celebrated by Raja Nabakrishna Deb of Sovabazar in 1757 to commemorate the East India Company’s victory over Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah at Plassey. Nabakrishna was Lord Clive’s banian and the talukdar of north Kolkata. He built a special thakurdalan (hall of worship) where the puja was held and dignitaries entertained. Lord Clive was the guest of honour at his puja and is said to have offered Rs 101, baskets of fruits and a goat for sacrifice.
At the celebrations food and clothes were distributed to the poor, a thousand animals are said to have been sacrificed, and there was nightlong entertainment for the distinguished as well as the multitudes. There was elaborate feasting and nautch (dance) performances for the invited, while the populace was entertained with bawdy songs and ribald mimicry (Banerjee 2004: 36-37). Clearly, while Durga Puja had travelled from the households of the rural raja or zamindars (landlords) to the urban arena of Kolkata, it was still confined to the households of the elite. The baroari (public) worship of the mother goddess commenced from the last decade of the 18th century when twelve Brahmin men formed a committee to conduct their own Durga Puja in Guptipara village in Nadia district of West Bengal, partly because some of them had been denied entry into a household celebration. So they set about performing the worship through a collection of subscriptions from neighbouring villages. Along with the rituals, various entertainments like swang (ironic mimicry), puppetry display, jatra (folk theatre) and half akhrai (a form of bawdy singing and dancing) were also performed.The public celebration of Durga Puja was a reaction to the restrictive and hierarchical practices of the household pujas. It was said that during three main days of the puja at the Deb household in north Kolkata only the British were invited to the meals.
Uninvited guests or trespassers were kept out of the household domain. While entertainment during the puja was free for the masses, entry into the domestic realm was restricted. Along with the opulent display of the household pujas of the collaborating elite, the public worship of Durga also became prominent in the city. By the first decade of the 20th century the baroari puja had become sarbojanin (for everyone), with the entire para (neighbourhood) or community involved. The sarbojanin Durga Puja had become a parar pujo.In 1910 the Sanatan Dharmotshahini Sabha organized a sarbojanin puja in the Bhowanipur area.
(Banerjee 2004: 49). Its institutionalization was effected by the locality known as Baghbazar in north Kolkata in 1918. Their example was soon followed by the neighbouring locality of Simla, where the Simla Byam Samity (a gymnasium club which fostered physical culture among the nationalist youth) also started a sarbojanin puja. Both these pujas were associated with the militant nationalist movement and sought to express their nationalist leanings through covert decorating motifs and the display of martial arts prowess on birashtami. The transformation of ashtami (the eight day of the bright lunar cycle of Aswin), the day when most people offered community worship at the pandals, into a day for the demonstration of martial arts prowess, served as a nationalist challenge to the colonial authorities. (Ghosh, 2006)McDermott (2016) identified a strong nexus between the religious and economic interests. She has presented the contested viewpoints explaining the rise of the Durga puja in Bengal.
She concluded that both the view-points are inherently biased. But the main factors that emerged from her deliberation to be instrumental behind the rise of worship were the exercise of political control and expression of social prestige. Its growth has also been attributed to the emergence of new sites of public sphere in neo-liberal economic conditions.LITERATURE REVIEWDurga puja, or the worship of goddess Durga, is the single most important festival in Bengal’s rich and diverse religious calendar. It is not just that her temples are strewn all over this part of the world. In fact, goddess Kali, with whom she shares a complementary history, is easily more popular in this regard. But as a one-off festivity, Durga puja outstrips anything that happens in Bengali life in terms of pomp, glamour, and popularity. And with huge diasporic populations spread across the world, she is now also a squarely international phenomenon, with her puja being celebrated wherever there are even a score or so of Hindu Bengali families in one place.
This is one Bengali festival that has people participating across religions and languages. In that sense, Durga puja has an unmistakable cosmopolitan hue about it. With more than 10 million people visiting the different pandals (the temporary, covered pavilions or marquees created for the goddess) in Kolkata alone on any one of the four days of festivity (now effectively extended to a whole week), Durga puja could well be the biggest carnival on earth. Kolkata’s image has become synonymous with this grand autumnal festival of the goddess. (Ray M, 2017)Religion and market, as spaces, were never very far away from each other, but in recent times it’s quite interesting to see how both has changed its nature. The question that arises is whether it’s due to the process of secularization that the profit making agencies enter into the sphere which was so long being maintained as an exclusive space of “sacred”? The notions of ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’ thus become issues of contestations where the capital becomes the new ‘religion’.Religion is bound to lose its relevance in modern, differentiated society where ‘the authority of holy is gradually replaced by the authority of achieved consensus. As secularization marks a decline of the sacred, so does sacralization denote an increase in the sacred in one form or the other and at different levels.
The rise of religious marketplace shows both the evidence of secularization and sacralization. For Berger, such a marketplace involved an increase in competition that was staged in increasingly secular terms and reflected the crumbling of religion’s prior structural monopolies and cultural hegemonies. The space of sacred is changing rather than fading away. Religion in modern India is both a product of modernity and also a process in producing modernity. The commodification of religion not only makes the festivities as a spectacle rather also the leaders into celebrities and their lives into a phenomenon. Religious commodification is a complex historical and cultural construction, which are produced in specific cultural contexts and thus require an understanding of cultural framework in order to unlock their symbolic and socio-economic significance. Commodifying processes are highly inventive and specifically embedded in the local global trajectories of the market economy and post-modern religious explosions.
This process however does not necessarily lead to religious malaise or produce new religious forms or movements that oppose the institutionalized beliefs and practices of the old religious institutions. It rather walks along the way to capture its essence giving it a new form. Diffusing religion via a commodity market and the intervention of the media coverage has redefined the ritual procedures which have affirmed the prosperity of the religious spaces in the everyday lives of the Asian people. One cannot avoid but notice that Durga Puja has always been a function of extravagance and expenses. During the British period, the emerging ‘babu’ community always tried to showcase their wealth through the celebration of this puja as a “status symbol”. So a question again arises as to, why suddenly this botheration with the issue of “money” and expenditure in the pujas; it is because of the nature of the “money”. Earlier, it was more or less the wealthy class who used to celebrate this religious festival according to their affordability and showcased their private property to gain respect and status in front of other people and also the British officials.
But now, consumption has become a compulsion. It has been turned into a necessity that we cannot avoid. We need to spend money on clothes, food, etc in order to make ourselves happy.
It is not something which is done by a handful number of people rather it has become a practice of the mass-culture, which makes it a matter of concern. The process of globalization and modernity may not necessarily bring transformation in our lives but it does influence some aspects of our culture. And as Durga Puja has always been a festivity where there has been a reflection of other aspects of life in the celebration, it is noticed that though the change in time has brought a great deal of changes in the pattern and structure of puja celebration; the excitement and effervescence related to this festival has not really changed much among the Bengalis.The ‘theme’ pujas have replaced the ‘sabeki’ pujas to a great extent but they too have their own importance. Each ‘theme’ puja puts up a new issue and portrays it through the pandals and ‘murti’ (idol). The religious space not only is kept limited with worshipping, praying rather it is also used as a space of learning where people becomes conscious about certain issues like global warming, women empowerment, different usages of jute etc. It portrays a different kind of art-form and also provides a platform to those artists who are otherwise not acknowledged or appreciated.
But this upcoming craze of coming up with new concepts, ideas, architecture, lightings and idol also makes ‘committees’ compete with each other. There comes the ‘rat-race’ in order to win the ‘best’ prize. The offering of ‘bhog’, a very basic ritual of any puja have also not been able to stay away from the clutch of the capitalist market.The parameters of assessment have become diverse, ranging from safe traffic rules, arrangements for senior citizens, to security of the pandal hoppers, drinking water and many others. Extra points are also added to the puja committee who does social services throughout the year and it has been noticed that all the puja pandals do associate themselves with some sort of welfare activity, which in a way also enhances the wellbeing of the locality. The previous ‘baroari’ pujas were organized with collections or ‘chanda’ that is subscriptions, where the people were engaged personally with the pujas. It is now being replaced by the corporate sponsored cultures where people stand in long queues for hours just to catch a glimpse of the well-known pujas.
Another interesting thing that has been noticed is the presence of the political party leaders as the ‘sobhapati’ of different pujas. The budgets of many middle ranged pujas have soared high. Political propaganda is being done through the big hoardings and advertisements put up at the entrance of the pujas. Thus, it is clearly noticed that the power of ‘money’ and the capitalistic structures have come to control the entire process of this festivity, which may not strike as an issue if seen casually, but a deeper eye on this process would actually reveal that things have changed its nature to a great extent. The entering of the big powers of capital and corporate structures in the locales of our life and cultures have also changed the nature of ‘sacred’ to a great extent. (Garai S, 2017)Companies have identified Durga puja festival in Kolkata as a great opportunity to grab the eyeballs of consumers.
Due to steep buying behaviour of consumers, these companies generate high revenues from trade. Besides they also use this opportunity to make their brand popular among consumers. Firstly they offer huge sponsorships to the clubs who anyway spend millions every year on their pandal. Companies literally fight for space, stalls, gates, banners in key locations of famous Durga pujas. Sometimes the money offered to these clubs as sponsorships are so high that they even agree to prefix or suffix the brand name along with the club name.
Brands like Times of India, Star Ananda, and Pepsi have done this very successfully in the past. Secondly companies also organize multiple events in which they choose the best puja pandal of Kolkata, best artist of Kolkata, best ambience etc. This not only provides a platform for the puja pandals and artists to get recognized, but also helps the brand to get consumers’ attention. One brand which has done this really well is Asian Paints.Asian Paints has an important role in raising the standards of Durga Pujas in Kolkata.
They started Asian Paints Sharad Samman in 1985 and have continued the tradition of identifying the best puja pandals of Kolkata every year. Asian Paints also involves celebrity jury for choosing the best puja pandals of Kolkata and continuously updates the people of Kolkata on shortlisted pujos through newspaper and television announcements. There are many similar Puja awards now in Kolkata like True Spirit Puja Awards, Pujo Perfect etc which choose the best pandals in Kolkata. These awards have proven to be very motivating to the puja organizers and artists and have raised the artistic creations of Kolkata Durga Pujas year after year. Finally companies along with co-branding with media (television channels, radio channels, newspapers) make live shows and promotional programs in the puja mandap premises where visitors participate and win prizes. In this way, not only the media gains their popularity, but also the companies who have co-sponsored the events with them.”This time, more bullish to get the biggest bang for their bucks, they have homed in on the bhog or prasad to be offered to the Goddess Durga.
Emami has tied up with more than 100 pujas pandals at housing societies in Kolkata where its Healthy & Tasty edible oil will be used in cooking the bhog. The company will also package bhog for another 30 pujas that will be home-delivered in their respective localities with the package flaunting the brand name in big and bold. These twin initiatives will see the company reach out to a target base of more than one lakh people and help build the brand, said Aditya Agarwal, director of the Kolkata-based FMCG major.” (Economic Times, 2013)At the core of this are mega-competitions, where each Puja committee competes for awards — a rivalry that has transformed the festival into an “industry.”But what attracts big brands to a cash-strapped market during the Puja?”Two reasons,” explained Dipankar Chatterjee, National Council member of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). “Bengal may not be a manufacturing hub, but is a huge consumer base with a robust appetite for fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs). So, money may not be flowing-in to promote high-value products but for FMCGs.
” The other factor is promotion of the Puja as the “Christmas of the East.” “People come from eastern India or Bangladesh. So, the best time to pitch or brand a product is during the Puja and also in the city to catch eyeballs,” Mr Chatterjee concluded. (The Hindu, 2015)METHODOLOGYResearch Methodology is a way to find out the result of a given problem on a specific matter or problem that is also referred as research problem. Methodology indicates how the researcher goes about with their work, how they conduct investigations and assess evidence, how they decide what is true and false. It comprises of the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge.
Social research may be defined as scientific understanding, which by means of logical and systematized techniques aim to- Discover new facts or verify old factsAnalyze the consequences, interrelationships and causal explanations which were derived with an appropriate technical frame of referenceDevelop new scientific tools, concepts, theories, which would facilitate reliable and valid study of human behaviour. ObjectivesThe Literature Review above highlights the changing nature of Durga Pujo in Kolkata, from the one we have grown up seeing. Keeping this in mind, the present study aims,To understand this shift from the point of view of the pujo committeesTo understand whether the committees are aware of their conscious decision to shift entirely from the traditional to the modernTo understand the influence of brands and sponsorship in this regardArea of StudyThe field of study was limited to the pujos of Northern Kolkata. This was done for a specific purpose.
The present researcher has found that, as compared to the pujos in the South, that have majorly all made the shift towards theme-based pujo, and scrapped the tradition of ekchala murti, the pujos in the North are still standing on the brink of tradition and modernity. It is in the transition phase, and thus makes the better case for the present researcher to study, keeping in mind the objectives.PopulationMajor North Kolkata pujo committee members were taken as respondents for the present study.Sampling TechniquePurposive method of sampling was used in this study. It means, only those respondents were taken into the study who were personally attached to the respective pujo committees, in whatever capacity. The usefulness of this is that, by selecting only such respondents, the present researcher was able to get an authentic insider’s point of view on the matters stated above. Purposive sampling was done due to the lack of resources like time and money.
Also, the present researcher has aimed to do a focused study. For this, purposive sampling is the most convenient. The sample for the present survey consists of 25 members from different pujo committees in North Kolkata.Tools of Data CollectionIn the present study Quantitative analysis technique is used. For this, Interview Schedules for collecting data is the selected method. Some open-ended questions were also included to learn in depth about the respondent’s view on certain points.Data analysisDuring the data analysis, the sample data was taken from 25 respondents. Secondly, the interview schedules were coded.
Thirdly, the structure of the data entry and the data table has been made with the help of MICROSOFT EXCEL. Finally, the analyses have been made on the basis of the table.Duration of the studyThe study was conducted over a period of 2 months (March 2018 to April 2018).FINDINGS AND ANALYSISIn this section the present researcher aims to make sense of the data that has been collected from the respondents. The findings are as listed below.Diagrammatic representations have also been provided.
Table 1: Age of RespondentsAge Count18 to 40 441 to 60 6> 60 15From Table 1, it can be seen that the majority of the respondents are from the age group of 60 and above. The next highest respondents are in the age group of 41 to 60. Followed by the lowest age group. This can be confirmed by Chart 1 below.1537471854100Diagram 1: Age of RespondentsReligion CountHindu 23Muslim 2Christianity 0Others 0 Table 2: Religion of RespondentsFrom Table 2, it can be observed that the respondents were mostly Hindus, and followed by Muslims. However, the other two religion groups did not have any representation in the present study. Diagram 2 below can confirm the same.Diagram 2: Religion of RespondentsAge of the PujoCount< 50 years 550 to 100 years 20> 100 years 0Table 3: Age of the PujoMost of the pujos were in the 50 to 100 years range.
A smaller number was in the less than 50 years range. However, no pujos in the greater than 100 years range was encountered. Diagram 3 is proof of this.Diagram 3: Age of the PujoBrief History of how it came into being CountRebellion against aristocracy of Bengal (Bonedibarir pujo) 12To bring harmony and festivity in the locality 2Renaissance of Indian culture during Swadeshi movement 7Inspiration from modern theme-based pujas 3Divine inspiration 1Others 0Table 4: Brief History of the PujoIt is observed from Table 4 above that a majority (48%) of the pujos had come into being as a rebellion against the aristocracy of Bengal, or the Bonedibarir pujos. The number of pujos coming into existence as a renaissance of Indian culture during Swadeshi movement is less (28%). The next most given response (12%) was mainly reserved to the newer pujos, who had come into existence because of the inspiration from modern theme-based pujos. Next was to bring harmony and festivity in the locality (8%). Avery small amount (4%) referred to divine inspiration as a cause for starting the pujo.
These statistics are confirmed in the Diagram 4 below.Diagram 4: Brief History of the PujoWhether the pujo has ever done an “ekchala murti” CountYes 22No 3Table 5: Ekchala MurtiIn Table 5, it is seen that most (88%) of the pujos had done an ekchala murti sometime since their inception. A fairly lesser (12%) number of pujos had never done an ekchala murti. This is depicted in Diagram 5 as well.Diagram 5: Ekchala MurtiSince when has theme pujo begun Count< 5 years ago 0> 5 years ago 25Table 6: Since when was Theme Pujo StartedThe answer to the question of since when was theme pujo started was unanimous. 100% of the respondents agreed that the trend of theme pujo had taken over since more than 5 years ago.
Diagram 6 confirms the same. There are still a few committees that practice the traditional pujo with ekchala murti. They were not asked this question since it does not apply to them.Diagram 6: Since when was Theme Pujo StartedNumber of Sponsors Count< 10 510 to 20 5> 20 15Table 7: Number of SponsorsTable 7 shows that most clubs (60%) have more than 20 sponsors nowadays. 20% of the clubs have 10 to 20 sponsors, and another 20% have less than 10 sponsors.
Diagram shows the same.Diagram 7: Number of SponsorsTable 8: Role of Prime Sponsor in Decision-makingRole of prime sponsor in decision-making process CountInvolved 0Not involved 22Maybe involved 3Table 8 shows that none of the clubs allowed their prime sponsors to be part of the decision-making process. 88% were of the opinion the opinion that no sponsor was part of this process. A lesser amount (12%) were not entirely sure on this front. Diagram 8: Role of Prime Sponsor in Decision-makingLast year’s budget Count; 10 lac 310 to 20 lac 4; 20 lac 18 Table 9: Approximate Budget in Last Year’s PujoFrom Table 9 it is seen that last year’s budget in most cases was above Rs. 20 lac.
A lesser number of pujos had a budget of Rs. 10 – 20 lac. And a comparatively lesser number had even less than Rs. 10 lac for budget. This is seen in Diagram 9 too.Diagram 9: Approximate Budget in Last Year’s PujoTable 10: Budget in First PujoFirst year’s budget Count; 10,000 810,000 to 50,000 13; 50,000 4Table 10 is witness to the abrupt and sharp increase in costs in pujos over the years. Most pujos started with a budget of Rs. 10,000 – 50,000.
Some started with even a meagre budget of less than Rs. 10,000. And a few others began with more than Rs. 50,000. Diagram 10 also shows this.Diagram 10: Budget in First PujoBrands that sponsor awards CountNestle 24Garnier23Coca Cola 22Emami23Pepsi 23Airtel 18Reliance 17The Telegraph 20Anadabazar Patrika20Times of India 19Asian Paints 25Rupa23Lux Cozi22Table 11: Most Popular Brands of Pujo Sponsors and AwardsThe above table shows the names of brands that were mostly given by the respondents, as the brands that give both the most sought-after awards and sponsorship money. Other names were also provided, but these were the majority. It can be seen that other than Asian Paints, it was the FMCG companies that had the most representation.
Diagram 11: Most Popular Brands of Pujo Sponsors and AwardsTable 12: Willingness of Pujos to Associate with Brand NamesWillingness to associate Bhog ;/or events with brand names CountWilling 15Not willing 6Maybe 4It is observed in Table 12 that unsurprisingly most pujos had no issue with associating either the Bhog or the events held during the pujo, with brand names. Some pujos were against this. And a few others had not really given it a thought. Diagram 12 also shows the same.Diagram 12: Willingness of Pujos to Associate with Brand NamesMoving towards theme-based pujo in future CountYes 22No 3Maybe 0 Table 13: Moving towards Theme-based Pujo in FutureTable 13 shows that a majority (88%) of the pujos want to move away from tradition, and towards themes in the coming future. However, a few (12%) pujos were adamant that they would stick to tradition, because that is their USP.
No pujos were seen to be in a dilemma on this front. Diagram 13 shows the same.Diagram 13: Moving towards Theme-based Pujo in FutureReason for moving towards theme CountSponsorship 23Competition 21Sending a social message 20Others 9Table 14: Reason for Moving towards Theme-based PujosTable 14 shows the opinion of the respondents with regard to their given reason for moving towards theme-based pujos in the future. This is also shown in Diagram 14. The main reason being getting sponsors, followed by being continually in competition for awards and thus attracting more sponsors, and finally for sending a social message.
Other reasons constituted a fairly lesser amount of respondents.Diagram 14: Reason for Moving towards Theme-based PujosSponsors are using Durga Pujo as a means of propagating their business CountYes 22No 0Maybe 3Table 15: Whether Sponsors are using Durga Pujo to Propagate BusinessUnsurprisingly, almost every pujo (88%) agreed that the brands were only thinking about business interest while sponsoring pujos. A very little number (12%) of these pujos were in a dilemma. However, none thought this was not the case. Diagram 15 can be consulted for this.Diagram 15: Whether Sponsors are using Durga Pujo to Propagate BusinessMajor money from where CountSponsors 20Locality 5 Table 16: Major Money is from whereIt is observed in Table 16 that a major proportion of the total money for most of the pujos comes from the sponsors. In very few pujos it comes not from the sponsors but from the locality. This is seen from Diagram 16.
Diagram 16: Major Money is from whereElements you take most pride in CountTraditions and rituals 15Themes and innovations 21Awards 24Others 16 Table 17: Elements Pujos take most Pride inTable 17 shows the elements that pujo committees take the most pride in. awards were the most sought-after element. This was followed by themes and innovation, and then by some other elements. Traditions and rituals made up the least interest to the committees.Diagram 17: Elements Pujos take most Pride inThus, at the end of the analysis, one can form a fairly wholesome picture of the situation at hand, in order to support the hypothesis. The members of the organising committees of the Pujas in the sample are mostly senior citizens and, understandably since it is a Hindu festival, are Hindus.
Majority of the Pujas have been going on for 50-100 years, some of which started as a result of the Swadeshi Movement but most of which started as traditional “Bonedibarir Pujas”. Although all of these started off as “Ekchala Pujas” which were the tradition at that time, hardly any of these remain thus nowadays. Theme Pujas have been prevalent among most of them for more than 5 years. Aided by more than 20 sponsors nowadays, most of these Pujas have a budget north of 20 lacs. This is an astounding figure, especially when put in context that most of these Pujas had a budget of 10,000-50,000 rupees when they first started off. However, none of the sponsors have a say in Puja proceedings which have been reserved with the respective committees. They do have brandings in all Puja related events though, fortifying the idea of commodification of the festival and resulting in huge business boosts of the sponsors. It can be seen that it is the FMCG brands that are the big players in this contemporary scene.
The research above also shows that the reasons for Puja committees to adopt a theme-based approach are various, ranging from getting more sponsorships, competitions with other pujas and exhibiting social messages and morals. Organising committees take pride in awards, themes and traditions in decreasing order of preferences, clearly pointing to the fact that virtues like traditions, religious sanctity and devotion take a back seat. Durga Pujas have thus become a hot seat for various brands of the country to generate revenue, and a celebration of the competitive nature prevalent in different localities in the city.CONCLUSIONWhile “culture war” is the term that has been used to describe the battle between religion and popular culture, the interaction between religion and marketing seems to be less of a war than a negotiation. Religion and marketing are not, in fact, at war. Nor are they mutually exclusive. Rather, there is a symbiotic relationship between religion and marketing.
‘Market’ has entered even in the remotest of not only this religious affair, but also in all spaces of our private and personal life as well. Even if we lament the cultural impacts of corporate globalization; the inundation of the tele-visual media, the increasing centrality of consumption, the constant re-fashioning of the taste and aspirations of middle and upper class urban folk cannot actually be avoided under any circumstances.The pro-market reforms have brought the state and the corporate sector in a closer collaboration with the religious sentiments. The neoliberal reforms and globalization are creating the circuits of demand and supply which did not exist before.
The technological infrastructure and the economic logic of globalization have actually touched every spheres of our life. With the opening up of the markets and accompanying liberalization and privatization as a part of globalization, a lot of changes have come in our ways of living. The lucrative packages of the multinational companies vest the middle classes with the purchasing power which ultimately lead them to be the consumerist class. Celebration of the culture of consumerism is one of the visible consequences of globalization. The culture of consumerism is not only about consuming more; rather it refers to a classy lifestyle. The distinctive traits of such lifestyles are concerns for brand equity, craze for the latest, and proliferation of wants over needs and a tendency of exhibitionism.The desire for the latest is systematically kept up by the Durga puja organizations by means of continuously coming up with something “new and different”. It is also sustained by stimulating a desire to stay ahead of others.
“Wants” are manufactured desires generated by advertisements patronized by media.Puja through the changing time had changed itself adequately with the forces of modernization, globalization, liberalization and capitalist corporatization. It has now become a huge spectacle. (Garai, 2017)Economic terms are introduced in this study since the changes in tradition are best explained by such. It is interesting to see how religion and the traditional have kept up with the forces of modernity. Religion has turned out to be very flexible. Now, when we see a perfect reproduction of a religious ritual, we feel nostalgia; not reverence.
However, it remains to be seen exactly how far religion and traditions can be stretched. Even a rubber band has its breaking point. The way that brands have swooped down on Durga Puja, even branding its Bhog at certain places, it might prove to be a bad omen for them. Appendix 1: BIBLIOGRAPHYRAY, M. (2017). Goddess in the City: Durga pujas of contemporary Kolkata. Modern Asian Studies, 51(4), 1126-1164.
doi:10.1017/S0026749X16000913Mc Dermott RF. Unanswered questions on the relationship between Politics, Economics and Religion: The Case of Durg? P?j? in Late Eighteenth-Century BengalGhosh S. Creating new myths: Post p?j? reflections.
Economic and Political Weekly. 2000b; 35(3): 94-96Ghosh, Anjan. 2000. “Spaces of recognition, Puja and Power in Contemporary Calcutta”. Journal of Southern African Studies.Vol 26, No.
2,289-299. Garai, S. 2017. Commercialization of Durga Puja in Kolkata. Arts ; Education International Research Journal.
Volume 4 Issue 1. P. 29-33.Guha-Thakurta, Tapati.
2015. In the Name of the Goddess: The Durga Pujas ofContemporary Kolkata. Delhi. Primus Books. Bagchi, Suvojit. Appropriating the goddess. The Hindu. 2nd November 2015.
Guha-Thakurta, Tapati. Durga, didi and the new-age puja. The Hindu. 16th September 2017.
Bhushan ; Mukherjee. Brands eye Durga Puja bhog to advertise products. Economic Times. 3rd October 2013.
Economic Times. Here’s why you should visit Kolkata during Durga Puja. 27th September 2017.Appendix 2: QUESTIONNAIREA STUDY ON DURGA PUJO AND ITS CHANGING TRADITIONSNAME:AGE:RELIGION:Name of the pujo. How old is the pujo?< 50 years50-100 years> 100 yearsHow did the pujo come into being?Have you ever done an “ekchalamurti” since the inception of the pujo?YesNoSince when has theme pujo started?< 5 years ago> 5 years agoHow many sponsors do you have?< 1010 to 20> 20Is the prime sponsor a part of the decision-making process?YesNoMaybeApproximate budget in last year’s pujo?; 10 lacs10 to 20 lac; 20 lacApproximate budget in the first pujo?; 10,00010,000 to 50,000; 50,000Name of some well-known brands that sponsors pujos ;/or awards.Are you willing to associate a brand name with the Bhog and/or events held during the pujo festivities?WillingNot willingMaybeIn the future, do you see yourself moving towards more theme-based pujo?YesNoMaybeIf yes, what is the reason?SponsorshipCompetitionSending a social messageOthers (specify briefly)Would you say sponsors are using Durga Pujo as a means of propagating their business?YesNoMaybeDo you collect more money from sponsors or the locality?SponsorsLocalityIn what element do you take the most pride?Traditions and ritualsThemes and innovationAwardsOthers (specify briefly)