Fort Kochi's Pappanji gets a face makeover after BJP objection

Fort Kochi's Pappanji after the face makeover. Photo: Manorama News
Fort Kochi's Pappanji after the face makeover. Photo: Manorama News

Kochi: Organisers of the Cochin Carnival have given the 65-feet Pappanji figure installed on the beaches of Fort Kochi a face makeover after a few alleged that the face donned earlier bore resemblance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Activists of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party had encircled the figure on Thursday forcing the organisers to halt its further construction.

They alleged that this was an attempt to insult the prime minister and to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the annual event.

“The Carnival committee’s move to portray Pappanji with the face of the prime minister should be condemned. People from different parts of the world, cutting across caste, religion and political parties, come to Kochi to witness the Carnival and welcome the New Year. By giving the Pappanji the face of the prime minister, those who are behind it have insulted the Cochin Carnival, the people of Kochi as well as the nation,” BJP district president K S Shaiju had told Onmanorama.

He said his party resorted to a protest after they were alerted by local fishermen who work on the Chinese nets nearby.

Though the organisers had pointed out that the resemblance was merely coincidental and that work was still pending on the figure's face, the protesters refused to back down, thus necessitating the intervention of the police. A compromise was finally made when the former assured that that face will bear no resemblance to Modi once all the work is complete.

Interestingly, BJP leaders are also part of the Carnival Committee which comprises people representing various parties and government officials.

Meanwhile, KJ Sohan, former Kochi Mayor and a key organiser of the event, termed BJP’s protest totally unwarranted and a dangerous trend.

“The works on Pappanji’s figure has not been completed yet. BJP has found similarity with the PM’s face only in a mask used as the base for the figure’s face. The final face will look completely different and we have conveyed it to them. These sort of protests are a dangerous trend as they trigger unnecessary troubles in society,” he said.

Sohan said this edition’s Pappanji has been designed as a symbol of humanity’s conquest over the coronavirus. “Pappanji has his left leg placed over corona this time,” he said. The figure has been designed by artist and IT professional Jais George and is built by Godwin, a native of Mulavukad.

Pappanji is a Santa-like long-bearded figure distinctively designed each year by noted artists, often based on contemporary themes. The word Pappanji means grandfather in Portuguese.

A tradition that dates back to 1985, the burning of the Pappanji is an integral part of Cochin Carnival. With the flames, the people of the region are symbolically burning the evils of the year gone by to enter a new year of goodness. Thousands flock to the beaches here to witness this spectacle.

This is the 39th edition of the Cochin Carnival. On December 31 night, cultural events will be followed by setting the Pappanji on ire.

A fireworks display too will be held. The carnival rally will begin from Veli ground at 3.30 pm on January 1.

The twin towns of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, which sit on an island off the shores of Kochi, are dotted with vestiges of colonialism - of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, all of whom had made their home here once. Even 75 years after India's Independence, these twin towns are cocooned in the traditions of old - the burning of the Pappanji certainly one of them.

A place where more than 36 communities melt together in complete harmony, the twin towns are an epitome of an inclusive society. Therefore, this recent protest over Pappanji's face is a rare one indeed.

A famous tourist destination, Fort Kochi is also home to one of the world's biggest art forums - the Kochi Muziris Biennale.

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