Text and Photographs by Avijit Maity ( LTSL)
Clockwise from the top-left: (1) Entrance of the 43rd Poush Mela at C R Park decorated with the theme of village hut. (2) Shops of exquisite clothing at the fair. (3) Shopping lovers gathered at their favorite place to find out the best match for their choice. (4) Pottery making – Skillsets of the artisans of Bengal still provoking the curiosity and enthusiasm of today’s generation. (5) Exhibition stall portraying major activities and achievements of C R Park Bangiyo Samaj on display.
When the rest of Indian sub-continent celebrates Makar Sankranti and different regions celebrate Maghi, Lohri, Pongal, Bihu, Khichdi , Shishur Saenkraat or Tirmoori to observe shifting of the Sun into ever-lengthening days of auspicious Uttarayan, the Bengali community in ‘little Bengal’ of the national capital gears up to celebrate the Poush Mela, the most popular cultural extravaganza for the Bengalis after Durga Puja. Organized by Chittaranjan Park Bangiya Samaj, the 43rdPoush Mela – the three-day festival started on 13thJanuary, in Chittaranjan Park Swami Vivekananda Mela Ground, aiming to highlight the rich heritage and essence of Bengal through food, music, aesthetics and live performances of well-known artistes, .
The origin of the Poush Mela dates back to the era of Bengal Renaissance in the 19th Century on the occasion of the ceremonial opening of Upasana Griha (Prayer Hall) of Shantiniketan to mark the acceptance of the Brahmo creed by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore along with his handful of followers. Basic intention of the fair at that time was to create a platform for interaction between the rural community and followers of Brahmanism, who gathered at Shantiniketan every year on the auspicious 7th day of Bengali calendar month Poush. However, later in the period of Rabindranath Tagore, the festival became more prominent for its cultural aspects,shifting the religious significance to the back stage, to bring to reality the poet’s idea of bringing together urban and rural people through folk representation of crafts, music and stage shows. Legacy of the great Tagore family, is commemorated every year in the fourth week of December by the Shantiniketan Trust in the Shantiniketan Mela ground. Though the date of the Poush Mela at C R Park does not coincide with that of Shantiniketan, the true spirit for the fair is no less than that of the original one in any facet.
Clockwise from the top-left: (1) & (2) Gastronomical feast of the fair – Stalls of well-known restaurant chain of the city (3) & (4) Thrill of riding slope and pirate ship – paradise for the adventure lovers.
Clockwise from the top-left: (1) Puzzled crowd in the food festival wandering to finalize the menu of lunch for the day. (2) & (3) Food stalls in the food festival serving delicious dishes of Bengali household.
Although the capital city reeled under a severe cold wave with fog and intermittent drizzle, ; energy & enthusiasm of the organizers, overwhelming participation of the contestants and excitement of the visitors made the environment for the carnival vibrant, which was felt all around. People from all over the city thronged the C R Park Mela Ground over the weekend to be part of the festival with great euphoria to satisfy their tantalizing taste buds in the gastronomical feast, showcase their culinary expertise in the food festival to take part in the beauty pageant.
Above: (1) Quizmaster entangling the participants as well as the audience. Below: (2) Drawing competition for encouraging the talents of art and painting.
Above: (1) & (2) Cute children adorning the stage with their pretty dress and witty talk in the aesthetic wear competition
The fair welcomed the visitors with an impressive entrance decorated with the theme of village hut evoking the nostalgia of rural life in Bengal. To highlight the traditional skill of the artisans of Bengal, a small exhibition of handicrafts was arranged, where visitors enjoyed the art of making pottery on the wheel. The fair also gave the opportunity to the shopping lovers to enjoythe pleasure of buying exquisite clothing. Another section of the fair was dedicated for the gastronomical feast, where food stalls of well-known restaurant chains of the city were serving sumptuous foods and drinks throughout the day. Amusement rides were attracting the adventure lovers to enjoy the adrenaline thrills
Above: Brides of India – enthralling the audience as well as the judges as they walking the ramp with bridal outfits, representing cultural diversity of the country.
A huge tent was erected at the center of the fair for the stage shows and other competitions . One small yet beautiful exhibition stall portraying major activities and achievements of C R Park Bangiyo Samaj was on display for the visitors. One of the major attractions of the three day mela was the food festival, which gave opportunity to the homemakers to showcase their culinary skills being judged by a panel of connoisseurs and later on, being felicitated by awards.. Quiz competitions, painting & fashion competitions for the little children, flute played by notable singers and the musical competition ‘Gaan o Gaan’, mesmerized the audience. Most fascinating among the competitions, was the bridal wear competition. The audience was held spellbound when the competitors dressed in bridal attire of different religions and communities of India, were walking on the ramp; while bright lights, sound and commentary by an eloquent anchor describing the details of the bridal outfits and personal background of the competitors, gave the event another dimension. Live concerts showcasing the talent ofrenowned Bengali singers like Riddhi, Iman, Durnibar, Dohar, Shwapnil and Rupankar captivated the gathering in the evenings throughout the festival.
Clockwise from the top-left: Few glimpses from the performance in the live concert that have mesmerized the audience (1) & (2 Rabindrasangeet and Folk singer Iman Chakraborty. (3), (4) & (5) Musical talent Shwapnil Sajib. (6) Musical artist Riddhi Bandyopadhyay. (7) Renowned singer Rupankar Bagchi. Middle: Section of the gathering in the live concert.
Change is inevitable and the only constant by the law of nature. Contemporary edition of the Poush Mela is also not an exception. Moreover, the influences of time and agility have made the event a quintessential amalgamation of tradition and modernity.