Durga Puja, like any other puja was also used to be held in community temples and also in temples belonging to mostly affluent families. However, irrespective of these types of organizers the involvement of the whole community had always been there. Being a mega religious festival in nature spanning over four days at a stretch with ingredients and rituals aplenty not every one in the community could organize it. Whenever a Durga Puja was held people from the locality use to throng in mostly with their entire family to take part in it.
But Baroari (community) Puja as such, that is one organized by a group of members of a community, usually of same locality, came up in the early 19th century. As found in the historical anecdotes, Durgotsav, the festival of worshipping Durga, was organized by some 12 Brahmins (the Hindu priest class) of Gooptipara in the district of Hooghly. The Puja expenditure worth Rs. 7,000 was financed entirely through subscription mobilized from the locality. The basic objective of organizing the puja was to shield the local people from natural calamity or epidemic. It was called Baro Yaari or Baroari as there were 12 heads behind it. This is how Baroari derived its name.
Baroari took its root in old Calcutta with the Puja of the Hindu Dharma Pracharani Sabha (the council for promotion of Hindu religion) at Balaram Ghose Street. It was located by the bank of the old Ganga(now reduced to Tolly Nullah). It was the maiden Baroari Puja in Calcutta - a Puja that was truly of all, by all and for all.
With the pace of the changing time things changed. As the erstwhile big joint families got fragmented more and more in course time, the image of Durga underwent changes. The original single frame structure, called "ek-chala" that embraced Durga and his family of five siblings with their respective Bahanas(carriages) was gradually broken down to five ("panch chala"), each one attached behind each of them. Kumortully, the place in North Calcutta where the idols are created also took to multi-framed idols of the Family of home-bound (parents') Durga.
Gradually more changes were incorporated in the features of the idols. The skilled clay modellers of Kumortully got influenced by the changing social parameters. The style and presentation that were earlier bounded by traditional beliefs and customs became more and more liberalized. The art form comes into being, as the idol makers enjoy more latitude. Driven by the demands of the puja organizers and the imagination of the artists the idols kept wearing newer looks.
The worshipped god turns into a frame of creating masterpieces as creators changed their medium from clay to other stuff. Even when clay is used the images are molded to look like one sculpted out of stone or metals. This is the way Durga idols evolve to its present forms and look today.
The pandals also nurture a similar process of evolution. Thanks to the the imagination of the organizers. The simple cloth and bamboo structure has, today, turned out to be a creation of an exquisite range of pantheon, replicating architecture marvel from anywhere in the world.
Keeping pace with the idols and pandals comes the dazzling creation of luminosity. Lightings are no longer suffice to serve their rudimentary purpose. It is now considered to be a medium of art. And the Baroari Pujas today exploit this particular spirit. Going beyond the religious frontiers the trendy luminosity today depict a perfect recital of current socio-cultural events, anything of national or international importance.
Just visit a few pandals and you will be struck by the sheer range of creativity in and around these pandals.