ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kolkata's Changing Puja Ethos

The traditional puja celebrations appear to have adapted to the demands of modernity. With sponsorships and the reach of the media, the social cohesion and the community organisation that marked the festivities of old have been lost. There are now moves to repackage the festival to serve as a popular tourism draw. But the changing modes of organising and celebrating the festival also serve as a motif to understand the shifting equations with modernity on the part of the individual and the community.

M odernity is now everywhere. Cultural producers, with their propensity to update the idea of consumption, seek to explore different areas of modernity. In the process, new modes of expenditure are making a foray into the consumer world. Print and broadcast media, films, tourism, games and other consumables all appear to conform to the cultural paradigm of universal modernity. Religious occasions too, not to be left behind, have the blessings of sponsors in their keenness to join the culture industry. The middle class both actual and potential is the social basis of public culture formations. In addition to the middle classes, another key interest group in the shaping of public culture is the variety of entrepreneurs and commercial institutions that constitute the culture industries, as Appadurai and Breckenridge (1996) put it. In quest of newer pastures, commercial houses have swooped down on an apparently alien area. Thus, the consumer-hunt has propelled big businesses to invade religious culture. They have now set their eyes on popular religious festivals with lucrative awards for images, decoration, pandals and lights. And since annual occasions do not seem to serve their purpose, more deities are being brought into their folds.

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