Cuttack: Durga Puja celebration here is a glittering show with the goddess and her progeny as well as Mahisashura, the demon she is seen slaying, adorning gold and silver jewellery for which this millennium city is famous.
This year at least 100 quintals of silver and more than 20 kg of gold fashioned into jewelleries and 'medha', the ornate and intricate piece that forms the backdrop of the idols, at an estimated cost of over Rs 50 crore are on display during ongoing four-day festival, claimed an office bearer of Mahanagar Puja Committee, the apex body of community puja organisers here.
The Choudhury Bazar puja in the city, which is the trendsetter, has used more than 15 kg gold for the ornaments of the deities and the 'medha', says its president Ganesh Chandra Sahoo.
"Besides the ornaments of Goddess Durga and the accompanying deities, we have made gold crowns for them, including that of Mahisashura," he said, adding over three kg gold has been used in the 'medha' itself.
The Naya Sarak Puja Committee has joined the elite club of those who exhibit silver 'medha' this year. "We have used over three quintals of silver in making it (the 'medha') and a gate in the pandal for Rs 1.5 crore," said its president Sanjay Kumar Sahoo.
According to a senior police official, at least 19 puja committees in the city have put up the silver 'medhas' and five of the elite puja pandals have decorated the idols with gold crowns and jewelleries.
To add to the glitter, the 150-odd puja committees of the city are spending over Rs 15 crore for decoration of the pandals, the welcome arches and immersion procession this year, the organisers said.
The city police have made special arrangements to provide round-the-clock security at these lavish pandals for the puja days.
"We are providing quick reaction team (QRT), 24-hour security at the mandaps (pandals) sporting silver 'medhas' and gold ornaments on the idols," the police officer said.
The organisers have been asked to install CCTV and recruit special police officers to control the crowd and ensure safety of women visitors, he said.
"Volunteers from the locality are appointed as special police officers to provide security at the pandals round the clock," said Mahanagar Puja Committee secretary Bhikari Das, adding the elite puja pandals have already installed CCTV cameras to keep a strict vigil.
Das said the committee has asked its members to make special arrangements for storing the idols' ornaments after the festival in view of incidents of theft in various temples over the past few years.
The committees have their own store rooms for the silver and gold artefacts under their security throughout the year as they feel it is safer than bank lockers.
The fashion for silver 'medhas' began in the city more than six decades ago, but the craze for gold crowns and jewelleries for the idols began in 1995 with Chowdhury Bazaar puja committee as the trendsetter in both counts.
It was the first to introduce the silver 'medha' way back in 1951 and later added gold to it. This year around 12 kg of gold has been used to add to the sparkle.
Sheikh Bazaar puja committee followed closely in lavish spending adorning the goddess with a crown made of 3.5 kg of gold at a cost of Rs 28 lakh in 2005. It soon used another three kg of gold for the crowns of the other deities, including that of the buffalo-headed demon Mahisashura.
Subsequently, Mangalabag, Khapuria, Dolamundai, and Balubazaar puja committees added gold to the ornaments of Goddess Durga.
Ranihat puja committee has joined the bandwagon this year. The idol of Goddess Durga at its pandal has been adorned with a gold crown weighing around five kg and costs about Rs two crore, said the organisers.