A starry night in Kolkata

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An image of the puja pandal

During Durga Puja, the City of Joy goes to great lengths to decorate pandals. If you want to see world-class artisanship, creativity, and beauty, then visit Kolkata during Durga Puja. The city will show you what type of hypnotic art can be created when our great local artists collaborate to implement a brilliant idea. In the puja pandals and idols, there is diversity, strong messaging, and visual splendor. Skilled and experienced artists, craftsmen, and painters from West Bengal and elsewhere are employed to make themed pandals that reflect ideology, message, movement, initiative, or prayer during the puja.

When the festival is flaunting its global identity this year, three pandals have been decked up in the colours and shades of one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most iconic paintings. Over the years, the Dutch painters’ impact has been seen in many forms, but this time three Durga puja pandals in Kolkata — Bakulbagan Sarbojanin, Hindusthan Park Sarbojanin, and Sovabazar Burtola Sarbojanin — have drawn inspiration from them. The reference point for two pandals in south Kolkata and one in north Kolkata is Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.

The Starry Night is an 1889 oil-on-canvas painting by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. The painting represents the view from Van Gogh’s asylum room’s east-facing window right before sunrise, with the addition of an imaginary village. It has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941 and is one of the most recognizable paintings in Western art.

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

The most evident rendition pervades the entire pandal and the idol at Bakulbagan Sarbojanin in south Kolkata, where seasoned artist Sanatan Dinda is in charge. Van Gogh’s masterpiece’s brilliant blue and yellow swirls stretch wall to wall among the bare steel structures, providing a sense of fast, flowing movement. A cluster of sunflowers, associated with van Gogh, is visible from the roof. In brilliant yellow glory, the goddess emerges from the swirl.

Talking to The Telegraph about his creative process, veteran artist Sanatan Dinda, who worked on the Bakulbagan Sarbojanin pandal, said, “I think of the idol first and then the pandal. My job is not to copy Starry Night but to give it a sculptural interpretation”. He added, “I believe in minimalist pujas. Why should themes have so much detail and complication?” Commenting on one such picture of goddess Durga’s idol that is placed under the backdrop of the Starry Night painting, a Twitter user wrote, “Now I know why Kolkata bongs are more into pandal hopping than bhog, the pandals are worth it”. Another person wrote, “Awesome, Brilliant, Creative!!!!!😳”.

Raja Sarkar, a visual artist, designed the Van Gogh-themed pandal in Hindusthan Park Sarbojanin. Sarkar’s decorations were unique in that he decorated the pandal with used garments. Sarkar’s pandal is a tailoring mecca, complete with 14 sewing machines and a plethora of string reels. Debabrata Singha, working with Indrajit Roy at Sovabazar Burtola Sarbojanin, shows how the internet has trapped people in a web. They have tinkered with another van Gogh painting, The Bedroom, adding a couple lying, each busy with his or her phone, on what was a bare bed in the composition. In the north Kolkata puja, Durga is seated for a meal with the kids, also busy on their phones, and through the window in the bedroom one can see a Starry Night replica.

The festival is showcasing its global identity in the wake of its inclusion on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity this year.

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