CALCUTTA, India, Oct. 25 (AP) - Giant, illuminated images of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York are drawing huge crowds at an annual Hindu festival in eastern India dedicated to ridding the world of evil. Artisans usually turn to current events for their elaborate creations of wood and plaster during the Durga Puja festival. Their work, displayed in squares or fields around Calcutta, is sponsored by community organizations. This year many of the displays show the World Trade Center, etched out in lights, being rammed by a plane and reduced to rubble. Seconds later the sequence is repeated. ``It has become the biggest crowd-puller this year,'' said Sujit Bose, a member of a festival committee that has set up such a display in a northern Calcutta suburb. ``The attack on the U.S. was on everyone's mind... . Where is the harm in it? It is not glorification of a tragedy, but the depiction of a contemporary event.'' Other exhibits highlight issues such as pollution, illiteracy and women's rights. Prominently displayed in every one, no matter what the theme, is a statue of the Hindu goddess Durga slaying the evil demon Asura. People offer prayers and flowers before the statue, a gesture of their desire to see good triumph over the evil represented.
Some artisans depicted Asura with the face of Osama bin Laden.But police banned those displays, saying they might cause anger in Calcutta, where Muslims account for about 15 percent of the population.
Not everyone approves of the World Trade Center exhibits."This is in a bad taste,'' said Satadal, a festival organizer who uses one name. ``Never have we shown themes of floods, cyclones or other tragedies in the past. We should not be celebrating sorrow in times of revelry.'' But Satadal is in the minority. Thousands of people in festive clothes and jewelry have spent their evenings this week visiting the displays, offering prayers, meeting relatives and eating sweets and delicacies. On Friday, when the five-day festival ends, they will join processions to immerse the idols of Durga in the Ganges River, regarded by Hindus as a holy river.
In northern India a simultaneous festival, Dussehra, is taking place, in which the god Ram is depicted as defeating another demon, Ravana, whose image is burned at the end of the festival. Several groups have depicted Ravana as bin Laden, and burned the image in public.