Sajano Pally Sarbojonin Durga Puja, of Suri (also spelt Siuri), Birbhum district brings to you the abode of “Maa Durga” (Goddess Durga) through her Facebook profile. How? Their pandal is made to look like a Facebook account of Goddess Durga. Suri, not known to a lot of people outside Bengal, has sprung a surprise (though not being social media savvy), and has done its part to keep up with the rest of the world. Among Suri’s well known attractions is Chattoraj family’s Durga Puja which was started by Bhairab Chandra Chattoraj about 200 years back.
What is a Pandal, really !
Pandals (A pandal is structure, either temporary or permanent, in a religious context) and idols inspired by particular theme (concept) has been a hallmark of many community or “sarbajanin” pujas in Kolkata since the 1990. This eventually spread to the other parts of Bengal eventually. Puja committees decide on a particular idea/theme, whose elements are thereafter incorporated into pandals and idols. Earlier, themes have included ancient civilization like Egyptians or Incas, rural people like Santhals; contemporary subjects like RMS Titanic and Harry Potter, have also been a subject of some pandals. But this is the first time anyone has brought an social media enigma, offline.
The Sajano Pally Sarbojonin Durga Puja committee who has pulled off this marvel this year, has a moderately active Facebook page. The public declaration was made on 2nd October, 2012 on the page. With a touch of humor, they mentioned that Lord Shiva has gifted his wife a laptop this year, so that he could stay in touch during these 5 days of festivity. The Midas Touch (read Facebook) has seemingly affected our divine family as well. Let’s face it, Facebook is really one of the fastest medium to reach out and engage, so why should the divine entities be kept away from this pandemonium?
Why such a theme?
Curious, we contacted the organizers, and asked them about their objective, and how everything went from concept to execution. Mr. Abhishek Mondal said he was in-charge of supervising the pandal construction & decoration, and the whole idea/theme was conceptualized by Mr. Sudip Bhattacharjee. Abhishek went further explaining the Hindu mythology where a Neekanth bird (Indian Roller, Coracias benghalensis) used to do the communication between Devi Durga and Lord Shiva. Keeping in mind the internet-generation, Goddess Durga Devi, hypothetically has chosen Facebook to announce her home-coming among the mortals. Abhishek sounded spiritual, saying
“Durga ma also wants people to maintain harmony, and love. She wants people to use technology to spread humanity and fight crime.”
How was it?
The pandal was designed like a Facebook page, with a timeline cover photo of the goddess and Lord Shiva) together, there was a display picture (commonly called ‘dp’) of Maa Durga as well. The chat box list included names like Lord Shiva, Lakshmi Devi, Sri Ganesh, Saraswati Devi, Lord Krishna, Brahma Dev & likes. This is truly a case of no missing details. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was not missing from the mentions as well, smart huh? Successful Indian Olympians were also featured on the page which gives us a sense that the goddess is watching over all of us. A perfect execution!
With good, innovative work, comes recognition. They are listed on Top 5 on Zee Bangla’s “Banglar Shera Pujo” (Bengal’s Best Puja). They’re also being discussed among people who saw the pictures of the pandal that were put up on Facebook. One such pic from Arnab Chowdhury reportedly got shared more than 2000 times. Well deserved!
Social Network but no social-media promotion?
Though the theme was based on a social-networking website, strangely enough, they did not choose to promote the page. At the time of writing this article, their Facebook page had only 54 likes. Was this a deliberate act, or lack of knowledge (of the power) of Social media promotion is what we need to ponder upon. For all you know, with a bit of promotional push, this page could have been a Puja craze.
What is the take away?
With increasing offline acts honoring online entities, eg. people being named after networking sites and likes, this is one step towards taking online concept offline. Facebook recently crossed 1 billion mark, a face saving achievement in the time where their stock prices plummeted to below $19 from the IPO price of $38. Hey Mark, maybe this news will add some joy.
The Durga Puja is over now and mythically Maa Durga is back to her place. What we have gained is a promise, a promise of bigger and brighter future for social media. Who knows next year, we will have a Twitter theme, with ‘Tweeter’ bird flying all around?