Heartwarming: A Pandal Where They Can See Maa Durga Through Fingers
According to a 2017 report, India is home to 15 million blind people out of 37 million blind individuals in the whole world; and yet our surroundings are far from being friendly to them. To top it, our society pushes people with disability to one dark corner of the house believing that their abilities aren't competitive enough for the world outside. We need to provide them the necessary support and encourage them to pursue whatever they want to do in life, just like any abled-bodied person. Including them in festivities is one sweet thing we can do in this time of the year.
In a exemplary gesture, the Samaj Sebi Sangha (SSS), a 73-year-old organization, has decided to make things a little bright for the visually impaired.
SSS from Ballygunge in South Kolkata decided to dedicate this year’s puja to the visually impaired. Everything in that pandal was blind-friendly. In order to make the visually impaired aware of the features of Ma Durga, they had placed a giant installation of the face of Durga, with the third eye, right at the entrance of the pandal. This face of Durga is made of 12,000 iron screws.
The words “Ma” and “Jai Ma Durga” are written in Braille (a form of written language for blind people in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots that are felt with the fingertips) on the inner walls of the pandal and upon entering each visually impaired person will be given sheets with the puja itinerary, details of the concept of the puja and the Durga mantra in Braille. Along with that, these special visitors can touch an artwork created with nails and strings.
In another section, they will be able to touch hammers and saws jammed in wooden planks, as if the act of building a pandal is on. At the exit, one would find volunteers from an eye hospital, asking people if they wish to sign up to donate their corneas after death.
“Our artists have come up with these ideas after spending time with students of blind schools. Just as people who can see get excited about Durga Puja when they see pandals coming up, the sound of sawing and nails being hammered into wooden planks makes the visually impaired realize that Puja is approaching,” said Dilip Banerjee, a former president of the Sangh to The Telegraph.
“Atop the pandal is a face with hands covering the eyes, which symbolically shows that the hands of the blind are their eyes. Right below this there will be depictions of lunar and solar eclipses, where light is shown to leave one eye and enter another,” added Arijit Maitra, general secretary of the puja committee.
While most of their décor was aimed at making the occasion joyous for the visually impaired as it was for everyone else, but the main aim behind this was to make people aware of the trials of the blind and to encourage them to pledge their eyes.
Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals of the year in West Bengal. For the six days of the festival, the streets are decorated in lights and accessories. Art works are exhibited almost in all puja pandals but people are not allowed to touch them, fearing vandalism. Every year Durga Puja pandals across the state focus on some or the other social issues, be it female infanticides to education etc.
Picture Source: The Telegraph, SamajSebiSangh/Facebook, The Better India
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