Ahmedabad: Non-veg delicacies back on menu for Durga Puja this year

Avinash Nair
Workers from Kolkata at the Puja pandal in Ahmedabad. (Express)

A year after being forced to serve vegetarian food during Durga Puja celebrations, the Bengal Cultural Association the oldest and largest association of Bengalis in Gujarat will be setting up 40 food-stalls as part of the festivities at a new venue, half of which will serve non-vegetarian delicacies.

The Bengal Cultural Association, which is celebrating its 82nd edition of Durga Puja in Ahmedabad, has shifted the celebrations to a new venue. This year, the Durga Puja pandals are being set up on an empty plot of land adjoining the Kalibari temple (near Sardar Patel Ring Road), which is managed and operated by the association.

The venue has been shifted from the Ahmedabad Education Society or AES grounds in Vast-rapur which had been the venue for the Puja in the past decade.

The AES ground was not available and so we moved to this venue where we are free to offer vegetarian and non-vegetarian food to the visitors, general secretary of the association Kanak Das Adhikary told The Indian Express. We will be setting up 40 food stalls and half of them will offer non-vegetarian food. It is a new venue. The ground is smaller than AES, but we are making sure all facilities are in place on time.

Last year, the food stalls set up alongside the Durga Puja pandal on the AES grounds strictly served vegetarian fare after AES authorities told the BCA trustees not to allow non-vegetarian food on the premises. Adhikary said non-vegetarian food had begun being being served during Durga Puja only in the past 16 years and that the non-availability of non-vegetarian food last year did not affect the footfall of around 18,000-20,000 per day.

The six-day celebrations, which will begin on Thursday and the pandals and cultural programmes will be inaugurated by Ahmedabad city mayor Bijal Patel and Chairman Standing Committee of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Amul Bhatt on Friday.

A food festival named Anandamela will exclusively feature home-cooked, authentic Bengali cuisine. This is only for a day, the official said, adding that there will also be 40 other food stalls at the pandals.

The biggest attraction this year will be the idol of goddess Durga made of bamboo, straw and clay. Even the jewellery and other accessories will be made of clay. This has not been done before in Ahmedabad, Adhikary said, adding that a special team of 10 workers from Kolkata have been working on the venue for the past 1.5 months. Apart from this, the main gate that will be 28-feet in height will be made of paddy straw and will have a 250-feet long wall with mud-finish. This wall with paddy straw roofing will exhibit art forms of Bengal, he added.

The new venue near Kalibari is 15 km away from the AES grounds. Officials say the first Durga Puja in Ahmedabad was held over 80 years ago at Laxmi Cotton Mills. Then the venue shifted to Lal Darwaja, Navrangpura and then AES grounds behind Doodarshan Kendra in Vastrapur. About four landowners and the AMC have offered land for this year s Durga Puja festivities.

On Saturday (Maha Saptami), Sunday (Maha Ashtami) and Monday (Maha Navami), there will be Puja, pushpanjali in the morning and bhog prasad in the afternoon. On Tuesday (Vijay Dashmi), the immersion procession will be held at 5 pm. The cultural programmes held alongside will have folk songs by a band from Kolkata. There will be an array of musical performances from singers who have been called from Kolkata, officials said.