Durga Puja expenses – 825 Rupees in 1910 – 2 million in 2009

Traditional pujas have given way to Pandal pujas – it is no longer Goddess Durga that attracts people to public Durga puja festivities but the huge decorations, innovative themes and cultural programs with Bollywood touch. The net result is that the cost of Durga Puja festivities today for popular Durga Puja pandals are counted in millions – a century ago the same public celebrations cost only a few hundred rupees.

Ananya Sengupta writes in Telegraph India about Kashmere Gate Puja Pandal in New Delhi which has displayed the bill of the Durga Puja expenses in 1910 in the Pandal this year.

It’s the original bill of expenses from the first puja, held in 1910. The old, yellow sheet of paper, torn at the edges, has been laminated and pinned to a board for everyone to see.

It tells you that the four families and local railway workers who started the puja spent just Rs 825. Today, it won’t buy the sugar for the bhog.

This year the puja, which draws an average of 5,000 people a day, cost Rs 20 lakh (2 million).

The old bill, scrawled in Bengali, says the idol cost Rs 94; this year’s came at Rs 1 lakh. The 1910 committee spent Rs 30 on cultural programmes spread over five days; this year’s forked out Rs 4 lakh for the plays and classical dance shows it staged. The pandal with its 20ft-high gate cost Rs 4.5 lakh; the lights and the sound system Rs 1.5 lakh.

It shows the original committee had managed to save Rs 75 — it had a budget of Rs 902. Of this, Rs 201 was raised as the usual chanda and Rs 701 came as “donation” from wealthy well-wishers.

Today, pujas and rituals have become a pretext for annual entertainment, show and pomp. In a state in South India, the revenue from liquor sales are breaking records every year during the festival season. In western parts of India, the budgets of public festivities during Ganesh Chaturthi are running into millions.

The spiritual element and traditional festivities are slowly moving into oblivion. Festivals have stooped to meaningless show off and waste of one’s energy and resources.