Durga Puja in Kolkata is characterised by the puja pandals - the temporary structures that are put up each year to house the deity Durga for her week of arrival. These pandals are bright, colourful, often thematic and each is distinctly different from the other. In fact, pandal hopping is one of the main activities for people during the Puja week.
However, this time, a pandal in South Kolkata has created an example of inclusivity in festivals with their latest pandal. Samaj Sebi Sangha, on Lake Road Kolkata, has created a pandal and statute of the deity using nails and threads to make it 'visible' to the visually impaired. The entrance to the pandal houses a gigantic face of Durga, crafted especially using about 1200 nails. Visually impaired devotees can enter the platform and touch the nails that make up the installation to glean the texture and feel of the sculpture.
Inside the pandal, the walls are crafted using nails with threads mounted on them and crisscrossing each other to form patterns and words such as "Ma" and "Jai Ma Durga" in Braille.
On top of the pandal is a sculpture of a face with its eyes covered with hands. The sculpture is meant to symbolize the fact that for the visually impaired, their hands are their eyes. According to members of Samaj Sebi Sangha, the artists spent time in schools for the visually impaired children before creating the pandal. Outside the pandal, eye-donation stalls have been set up where visitors can pledge their eyes in service of the visually impaired.