Kolkata is a land of myriad colours. A city famous for its old world charm, Kolkata celebrates its biggest festival in the month of Ashwin, generally September end to early October. The arrival of the Godess to her worldly abode is celebrated with a fervour that can rival the deadliest India versus Pakistan matches!
Pujo is the time when the shadiest of bylanes is lit up in festive colours. It is a feeling like no other.
Fables tell us on the auspicious occaission of Mahalaya, the Godess arrives at her maternal place (baper bari) as a daughter, with four children in tow, in the form of Uma. It marks the end of Pitri Paksha and the begining of Devi Paksha. Devi Durga is worshipped in the form of Mahisasuramardini (the one who kills the evil Mahisasura).
The preparation to make this grand event a roaring success begins on Akshay Tritiya with the collection of the particular alluvium soil from the Ganges to give shape to the idol. Next comes the kathamo puja, on Rathyatra, where a basic wooden silhoutte is structured and worshipped.
Anytime after this, you might peek into the snaky lanes of Kumartuli, or Potters' Lane in north Kolkata and you will pot numerous idols in making. For any Bengali, this is a sight to devour.
To get a real taste of how important a festival Durga Puja is, land in the city a week before the puja begins and head straight to the buzzing market zones like New Market, Gariahat or Hatibagan. You'd be lucky if you could set foot in a crowd of millions!
The real pujo begins on Shashthi. Themed pandals adorne Calcutta streets in all their glory. Lights all over the city exude celebratory vibes. The city changes by every frame. Flock the streets with the local crowd to know which Pandal is the eyecatcher of the year. The various colour, shapes, sizes add a variety of angles to the city. Add to that the heavenly Dhaker Badyi (drum sound) and Dhunuchi Naach. It's an other worldly feeling alltogether.
Perhaps, Kolkata in its Pujo adornement is the only city in India to host such a huge open air carnival. The feelings of a Bengali, no matter in which corner of the world they reside in, during Pujo cannot be captured in words.
On the last day of Vijaya Dashami, the devotees bid farewell to the Mother, Maa Durga with the boron and sindoor khela amongst women. That is a moment of sadness tinged with happy memories. Ladies and young girls mostly wear sarees on both Ashtami and Dashami whereas men and teenage boy opt for the kurta. Its all about tradition and culture these five days in Bengal.
If you haven't been in Kolkata for Durga Puja at least once in your life, you haven't seen the craziest, funniest, and the zingiest festival of India! Durga Puja is the most joyous occasion in the life of a Bengali and one of its greatest features is that it includes all, from young to old, rich to poor, atheist to theist. So feel free to join in to the festivities and enjoy to your heart's content.
The best way to go pandal hopping is on foot but for one who doesn't know the city a tour bus would be the best bet. The tourism department of West Bengal Government offers day long package services for pandal hoppers. Feel free to tab into the official webiste. The city appears like a lady jewelled with lights in various ways! To witness this phase of the city you might venture into the lanes and bylanes at night. Yes, even the nocturnal creature is a welcome guest during Pujo.
To soak into the history of the city, take the Pujo package offered by Calcutta Tram Corporation on a Heritage Tram and make your way to the city's biggest pujas! Do visit the Bonedi Barir Pujos (where Maa Durga is worshipped in the ancestral family home) to know and see where it all started in the most authentic form. Feel the madness that overtakes every worry in every Bengali. It is a season of homecoming and happiness.
1. Wear the most comfortable shoes you have. Pandal hopping, toe blisters and footache almost always go hand in hand.
2. Keep a city map handy. Only the ones born and bred in the city will know their way in and out of pandals. So, prepare yourself with a map.
3. Carry water, an umbrella and sunglasses. The weather is unpredictable.
4. If you face a problem ask the police. The whole force is on roads during Pujo. Even better, download the “SHARADIYA APP” from playstore.
Picture Courtesy: Flickr Photos