They stand together at times of distress. They promote the rich culture and tradition of Odisha like nobody else. They are on a mission to serve people. They win hearts! The case in point is the Winner Association of Sahid Nagar.
Founded in the year 2000, the Winner Association has set an example for others for their roundthe- year philanthropic activities and promotion of Odia culture and tradition. But the Association, as their members opine, has gathered a lot of momentum in Odisha with the way they celebrate Ganesh Puja.
“The 17 year journey of Winner Association has been replete with many success stories. The sole objective of the Association has always been to serve people, celebrate the Odia festivals differently and create awareness on various social issues. Deben Mishra, President of the Association has been a pillar of support from the beginning,” says, Umanath Mishra, Chief Advisor, Winner Association.
Though the Association has been celebrating Ganesh Puja from the beginning, they have embarked on a different journey from 2013. “We all felt the need to celebrate Ganesh Puja at par with Mumbai. So we first made a 15-feet long Ganesh idol at the pandal. The pandal hoppers were taken in for a surprise to see a huge Ganesh idol then,” reminisces Jitendra Kumar Rout, Working President of the Association.
Last year Winner Association grabbed national headlines when they erected an astonishing 35- feet long Ganesh idol. “It took us nearly three months to make the Ganesh idol. We had hired over 30 technicians from Mednipur for the same. Well, Odisha had never quite seen such a towering Ganesh idol before! People, even from far off places like Mayurbhanj, Koraput and Phulbani, were tempted to get a glimpse of the ‘Bada’ Ganesh. The 22kg real laddu, placed in the hands of the idol was another attraction. It was overwhelming to see more than10,000 footfalls at the pandal every day, ”said Umanath.“We use cimbals and dholaks during the visarjan and do not encourage playing Western or Dj music, unlike others. Since the idol is made up of natural elements like mud, natural oils, etc., ‘visarjan’ is possible at the pandal site itself, thereby sending a strong message against pollution,”Said Subrat Mohanty, Treasurer of the Association.
During the seven-day long Ganesh puja celebrations, the Association felicitates local residents promoting cleanliness in their locality, carries out signature campaigns and organizes ‘Bhajan Sandhyas’. Besides, arrangement is made for free ‘Prasad Sevan’ for everyone visiting the pandal. The Association makes special arrangement for the differently abled children at the pandal to enjoy the Puja. That’s not all! A dedicated all season ‘open-gym’ at the Association premises is a big hit among the local residents.
Unlike other Associations of its ilk, Winner celebrated its Foundation Day on 8th January this year on a different note.“Staying away from much fanfare, we celebrated our Foundation Day by organizing a massive cleanliness drive at Jayadev Peetha (Khorda), a popular picnic spot. We cleaned the premises in a bid to create awareness among the picniclovers about the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign,”said Niroj Kumar Sahoo, Assistant General Secretary of the Association.
The exemplary camaraderie of the team members has taken our association beyond the realms of any cultural Association. Staying together for 17 long years justifies this. On being asked about this bonding, Amitabh Sahu, Vice President of Winner, says, “Winner Association is like a family. At times our opinions differ from one another but the sole ambition to serve the people through our small efforts has kept us together.”
Dilip Kumar Sethi, General Secretary of Winner feels the declining festive fervour amongst the youngsters is a worrying trend and hence the Association has been promoting the Odia culture and tradition untiringly.
The Association aspires to undertake many other plans including talent hunt shows for the local kids, science exhibitions for school kids, opening art & dance classes, multi-sport courts at the Association premises and much more. “This year people will get to see a 40 feet Ganesh idol at the pandal with designs and features like never before,” says Niroj before signing off.