The tram is a symbol of Kolkata's (formerly Calcutta) rich historical past and an emblem of the city's heritage. It has become an entity and personality of the city of joy since its first trip from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat on February 24, 1873. The Calcutta tram was known as the 'Lifeline of Calcutta Metropolis', and it is the only Indian city with a surviving tram network as of today, and one among the 400+ cities worldwide where trams operate.
Now if there’s one thing the residents of Kolkata love even more than their trams is the grandest festival of them all, the Durga Puja. For centuries, the festival of Durga Puja has enamored the hearts and minds of Bengalis, becoming a fervent celebration of the divine feminine power. While the streets buzz with excitement over puja pandal themes and holiday plans each year during this time in autumn, this year there’s another wonder in the streets of Kolkata capturing the undivided attention of its residents — a painted tram, on which are beautifully drawn motifs celebrating Durga Puja along with the city’s nostalgic symbols.
Asian Paints and Mumbai’s XXL Gallery thought that determining whether the residents of Kolkata love their trams more or their Durga Puja was a fool’s errand. So instead, they combined the two, and the result was simply magnificent. Through the brushstrokes of talented visual artist, Sayan Mukherjee, the vision came to life. The idea behind painting the tram was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Kolkata’s trams and the 40th anniversary of Asian Paints Sharad Shamman, a coveted excellence award given each year to the most well decorated Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata.
In a candid interview with Homegrown, Sayan shared with us his experience with this wonderful initiative. On the first bogey of the train, using enamel paint, Sayan painted the most noteworthy associations Bengalis have with Durga Puja — Ma Durga’s face with her iconic third eye, the artisans who sculpt the idols for Durga Puja, a visage of the demon-king Mahishasura, dhunachi (a Bengali incense burner commonly used during ritualized ceremonies), the dhakis (Puja drummers) and more such motifs. The second bogey was the canvas capturing the residents’ evocative and nostalgic connections to West Bengal — its iconic yellow taxi, the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Victoria Memorial and more. Even the insides of the tram are marvelously painted, echoing the feeling of stepping into a small palace room.
A few days back as Sayan and his team, finished transforming the iconic tram that runs from Tollygunge to Ballygunge into a living canvas and the public and the press flocked to the tram depot to catch a glimpse of it. On social media it went viral, earning the appreciation of netizens across the country. The tram is fully operational now, flaunting its new artistically decorated metallic body, as it traverses on its usual route. As we wait with bated breath for Durga Puja to arrive in another week, other than the marvelous idols and pandals, there is an added visual treat to behold!
Follow Sayan Mukherjee here.
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