Pulling off Durga Puja , the Event Manager’s Way

Considered to be the largest festival celebrated annually in the State of West Bengal, Durga Puja has always been the essence of family bonding, pandal hopping, relishing good food and the likes. However, the joys of those five days often overlook the sheer amount of hard work put in by the organising committees; for months prior to the commencement of the festival. The organisation of a Puja is an interesting case study for those in the field of event management, after all, the Puja is an event and it does need management from ample aspects. Here are some of the skills that are mandatory for a Durga Puja organiser.

Planning: The basis of pulling off such animpressive event is to plan out the timelines for the event with the whole team and quickly allocating duties and resources to each team member.  Since, it takes a lot of time to construct pandals, fetch sponsorships, negotiate with the workers and the likes; there are noted deadlines for each of these works to be completed. In fact, apart from overall deadlines, there are also daily deadlines wherein a person or a department has to complete a certain amount of work to determine the overall progress of the event.

Team Work: Durga Puja, being the grand event it is, cannot be manned by one person. Hence, different departments are created internally which work autonomously and yet contribute to the overall success of the event. Some departments include finance department, creative department, food department and the likes. The Team leaders must be constantly in touch with each other and provide regular updates on the progress of their department.

Creativity: At times the organizers pitch in their own creative skills while constructing the pandals. While the idols and the rituals are well-known to the people, every year they anticipate the pandals more than anything. This has led organisers to come up with unique ideas like a thousand hand idol of Durga or a 110 feet idol of Durga. The pandals are often made with bamboos and then decorated with mirrors, glasses, lanterns, tyres and whatever the creative team plans on to do.

Collaborations and Sponsorships: The huge expense of organising such a large scale event for five days, with backend work beginning months before, cannot be met without the generous contributions of collaborators, donors and sponsors. While most organisers have affiliations with their sponsors who are regular contributors each year, they are always on the lookout for newer ones to expand their business. In return, the contributors are offered banner spaces and stalls to showcase their products to the large crowd.

Negotiator for Performances and Rituals: Most Puja committees organize some form of recreation or stage events during the five days of the Puja. Thus, they have a humongous task of approaching the performers- celebrities, singers, dancers or musicians – and book their dates for the Puja. The Pandits who perform the rituals of the puja are also in high demand. Hence, they need to be finalized and their salaries negotiated at the earliest.

Human Resource Management: Management is the essential skill that an event manager has to have while organizing an event. It looks into the details of the organization and varies from Crowd Management, Traffic Management, Labour Management and the like.

Even before the puja begins, during the construction phase, the labourers have to be managed by the organisers. They must be given daily wages, a place to stay in makeshift tents near the construction sites, food and the likes. With well-known pandals there is an influx of crowd gathering at a particular point of time. At times, long queues need to be made in order to manage the crowds. These are done by the organisers or the volunteers appointed by them. Though traffic guards and police inspectors are stationed near every pandal, but at times, the organisers have to proactively help them. Lastly, they also need to keep in mind any adverse situations that might arise and have fire brigade, medical services and the police at hand.

Finance Management: Though Finance Management is a part of the Management duties; but it is unfair to not demarcate it as a separate responsibility. The budget is roughly decided upon during the planning stage. There are budgets allocated for each task in hand. The work of the finance department in this aspect is dual- to collect the finance through collaborators, sponsors and donors and to pay off the various people involved, for their services. In fact, a good event manager would not only try to meet the expected target of finance for the year; but also try and save a handful for emergencies and as profit for the year ahead.

Time Management: Considered as one of the most difficult aspects, time is crucial for planning any event. What is visible to the people is how timely the event is managed. This includes the completion of the pandal on time, the daily rituals being performed on time, the performances starting and ending on time etc. But these are minor parts of an even greater time management schedule, most of which remain invisible to the eyes of the people. The Organising Committee often has a time schedule chalked up for the entire year during which they negotiate with the labourers, get the musicians, hire an architect, talk to advertisers and the cycle starts afresh once the Pujo for a particular year comes to a closure.

Communication Skills: The members of the organizing committee must maintain communication transparency with each other. This is how one department would be aware of the work going on in another department. Further, every year few people are chosen as the spokesperson from the committee who face the media whenever required. Hence, one has to be adept in his/her communication skills.

Staying focussed and calm:Above all other skills, the organizer has to remain calm and composed. Situations may arise when he/she has to face crisis management situations because things go awfully wrong. But that is the test every event manager has to go through where the situation is handled even in the adverse consequences in a brilliant manner so that the loopholes are not exposed to the general public.

Evaluation: After the event is over, the last task left for the organiser to do is to evaluate the pros and cons of the festival. This would enable him/her to build up better strategies for the year ahead.

What’s in store this year?

2017 has called for most Puja organisers to brainstorm and put together something new in their approach of constructing pandals.

  • The famous Ballygunge Cultural of South Kolkata has Metal Bands as its theme.
  • The TridharaSammilani has used empty medicine boxes to build its enormouspandal.
  • Maddox Square and Deshapriya Park have decided to keep it simple and provide more ground space for people to jump in and have adda. They have also created stage for performances by different music bands and singers.
  • The Rupchand Mukherjee Lane pandal is seeing a burst of artistic talent with the pandals being hand-painted by pathachitra artists or street painters. They are recreating scenes from the Indian mythology to accompany the theme of the event.
  • SamajSebi, another acclaimed organization in South Kolkata have hired Fashion Designer Tejas Gandhi to design elaborate costumes for their deities.

No matter how beautiful the pandals are, at the end of the day if the event is successful, it is the collective success of the manager and the team through the appreciation of their hard work. This has also been given a boost by organising various Sharad Samman Awards where the best pandals are awarded trophies and prizes. This boosts up the morale of the organisers to a great level.


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