Ghaziabad: No matter which sphere, our world is marked by an unequal distribution of men and women. Yet against all stereotypes, some women are coming to the fore and proving that women are capable of everything.
Among all other Durga puja festivals, 'Ananya Naari Durgostav' from Ghaziabad is special because it is the only puja organized by all women. Both priest and dhaki artists are women who have come here from West Bengal for this festival. This Durga puja is organized by a group of Bengali ladies in Ghaziabad under the name Shalimar Garden Mahila Sewa Samiti.
Papri Chakraborty, President of the Shalimar Garden Mahila Sewa Samiti, stated, "Generally, men arrange everything, and women are always working on the back foot. However, I want something in which women can come up on the front foot and show their creativity and managing skill."
She says that this year, the stage is not very large as compared to other pandals because it is only the beginning, but the members are trying to make it better. Giving us a round of the pandal, Papri tells us about the inception and challenges while forming a committee. She says, "Convincing others was the most difficult challenge we faced. Initially, there were four or five of us who wanted to organize a puja and communicate our message. Then it was also hard to find female priests and Dhaaki artists. Nevertheless, our journey here has been memorable. We have received appreciation from people far and wide."
A resident of Shalimar Garden, and member of Shalimar Garden Mahila Sewa Samit, Nandita Tiwari agrees that they fought to create their place in a society that insisted that women cannot hold vast events such as a Durga pooja. "Here we are, everything is going smoothly by the blessing of Durga maa."
Diptashree Ganguli, Lady Purohit, from Kolkata, says, "The ability to perform pooja in 'Ananya Durgostav was a gift from Durga maa. Before this, I had spent the previous three years performing ceremonial pooja in Kolkata. My father, his father, and their ancestors were all priests, so it is something I inherited from them. After graduating from Ravindra Bharti University, I took Sanskrit shloka lessons because I was more interested in spirituality. Today, even our community is attempting to end Kanya Daan, as a daughter is not something that can be given away."
Sujata Chowdhary, a Dhaaki artist from West Bengal, expressed, "I was ecstatic to learn that I will travel to the northern region to participate in a Durga pooja. When I was five, I observed men practising Dhaaki daily, which piqued my interest and made me feel good, so I began to play. Sometimes people opposed me and said I shouldn't be doing this because I was a woman, but I stuck with. After receiving a master's assistance to train in Dhaak, I'm now able to play different types of dhaaks in functions."
Neelima Gosh, an additional Dhaak artist, stated: "It's been five years since I learned the instrument, and I play it with my family during the corona period when we have no other source of income."
Ravnender Biswas, 68, a resident of Shalimar Garden, Ghaziabad, and a retired man, stated that he was initially quite surprised, but now he is proud of all the women who are willing to take such a courageous step.
Aarti Sen, 44, a resident of the Shalimar garden, commented, "I am enjoying this pooja very much because my family and I haven't been able to enjoy it for the past two years, and now we are in the mood to dance. This year is especially meaningful to me because our community ladies have made us all proud."