The weather God played truant since the previous night, perhaps somewhat dampening the mood. As the sacred hour approached, the grey clouds still came floating by, but this time to add color to the festive sky – no longer carrying rain. It was as if the Gods were hatching a pleasant conspiracy to test the otherwise indomitable spirit of the Powai Bengali Welfare Association (PBWA) members.
Braving the continued downpour, PBWA members and patrons – dressed in their colorful traditional attires – had assembled at the PBWA puja ground in Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, by 11:00 in the morning to perform “Khuti Pujo”. “Khuti” refers to a wooden pole that forms the first installation of an upcoming structure.
“Khuti Pujo” thus marks the beginning of the construction of the wooden frame on which Devi Durga will gradually assume her divine form. The construction work of her earthly abode also begins that day. The puja began on time with the chanting of mantras, followed by prayers together not only to strengthen the upcoming structure of the mandap, but also to add vigor to the very foundation on which PBWA has been built. Now, it’s time for rigorous and patient month-long wait.
Why does PBWA attach so much significance to “Khuti Pujo”? Since the days of its inception in 2006, Durga Puja has never been just an annual ritual to worship a demon-slaying Goddess who visits her paternal home along with her four children for four days once a year. Rather, the grand platform of Durga Puja has been used as a stepping-stone toward reinvigorating what’s been lost with the passage of time.
So, when PBWA started “Khuti Pujo” last year – the first such event in Mumbai — it didn’t come as a surprise to most. PBWA, after all, has been known to be a trendsetter for a decade and has carved out its niche in the western part of India. Successful and seamless organization of an event of such scale requires wider community participation, brining in complementary skillsets. But PBWA’s secret sauce over the years has been in the overlapping values of its members. Thus, it won’t be overambitious to expect an even grander confluence of religion, art, culture and heritage in full display from 17 October onwards.