Coronavirus, Migrant Crisis, and Sonu Sood: Kolkata’s Durga Puja Pandals Are Going Viral

Social Commentary

Coronavirus, Migrant Crisis, and Sonu Sood: Kolkata’s Durga Puja Pandals Are Going Viral

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

In a year that will be remembered for the global pandemic, even the celebration of festivals has reflected current events. As India celebrates Durga Puja, despite the restrictions on religious gatherings, the artists and sculptors who painstakingly design the pandals have not let that dampen their spirit. Many Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata have offered unique glimpses at the way the Covid-19 pandemic has affected our lives in 2020. Some of these pandals have gone on to achieve viral fame, including one which featured a life-sized sculpture of the actor Sonu Sood, who showed how large-hearted he was with his humanitarian activities during the migrant crisis that struck the country’s poorer workers when the lockdown was imposed.

The sculpture of Sood was part of a larger tableau at the Kolkata pandal, which depicted scenes from the country’s migrant crisis. In addition to the sculpture of Sood, there were scenes depicting the tragic instances where migrant workers sleeping along train tracks lost their lives, or when a woman had to drag her exhausted child on her trolley bag as she trekked on the nation’s highways, among others.

The Covid pandemic has informed the theme at many pandals this year. One popular (read: viral) pandal caused a buzz after it depicted the Goddess Durga as a doctor, and her foe Mahishasura as the coronavirus itself. The Goddess was shown slaying her rival, not with the familiar trishul, but rather a doctor’s syringe.

Another pandal that impressed social media placed the Goddess in the body of a migrant woman, leading her children to safety. The other deities placed at the pandal have also been reimagined as migrant workers, keeping in tone with the pandal’s theme of “relief”.

Though the festivals may not be celebrated with the same pomp this year due to the virus, the fervour among the faithful remains undimmed.