What is it like to be a part of Durga Puja in Kolkata?
Well, as for someone from Kolkata I can assure you Durga Puja is the most celebrated festival in West Bengal. Durga puja brings friends together, makes people forget about agony of their daily lives, melts ego between 2 persons.
We celebrate Durga Puja for 4 days and ask for more. Every year during that 6 days(including 2 days before Puja) you will find the streets of Kolkata swarming with people. You will find IT professionals skipping office, group of students, group of friends who don’t get time to interact with each other(probably because they works in different parts of India), cute couples, children in new dresses holding their parents’ hand – almost everyone who live in Kolkata(and yes of course who does not mind following the crowd in a busy pandal). Some pandals might have a fair centering the pandal.
Most people prefer to visit the pandals with friends during day and the night is reserved for trips with family members. They don’t bother about visiting the same place twice. I have seen my friends visiting the same pandal 3 times just to satisfy 3 sets of people.
The durga puja starts with “Shasthi”, when the Durga idol is displayed for the first time for visitors. Shasthi is followed by “Saptami”, “Ashtami”, ‘Nabami” & “Doshomi’. Shasthi is not considered within the4 days time span I mentioned before.
The most anticipated(at least for me) event of Durga is “Anjali” which takes place in Morning on the second day of Durga Puja i.e, “Ashtomi”. People gathered in pandal for “Anjali” chants some mantra & pray to “Ma Durga” for blessing. This event is very special for teenager as they get a chance to see their crush in indian dresses and to stand close to their crush during “Anjali” and steal a glance or two when everyone is busy praying with eyes closed. Though last day of Durga Puja is more ventful than “Ashtomi’ comprising “Sindur-khela” and “Bisharjan”( emmersion of Durga idol in water). “Sindur-khela” is the ritual where married women farewell Ma Durga for that year and play with Sindur with other women. The “Bisharjan” ceremony leave all bengali people sad though we cheer each other with the slogan “Asche bochor abar hobe” (“Till next year”).
Now a days various club throughout Kolkata compete with each other about whose pandal and Durga idol is better. Many organization, news channels arrange for these kind of competition. So the club opens the pandals 23 days before Durga Puja and preserve them till 2 days after Durga Puja ends. Naturally whichever club wins competition gathers more visitors and proudly displays the prize. In order to win these competition some club innovates new ways to amuse people. There are many instances where the whole pandal even the idols are built of paper or glass or chalk etc. Those pandals are indeed worth exploring after few hours waiting period in queue.
Any discussion is incomplete without Durga Puja organized by various people at their home. Some family maintains this tradition for hundreds of years. The rituals, the idols remain surprisingly same for years maintaining the tradition. This kind of ceremony attracts members of family from abroad. They gather once a year to celebrate Durga Puja.
To conclude, Durga puja leaves us refreshed, energized, motivated and of course fat (you know, the phuchka, ice-cream, cold drinks stalls around the pandal and those delicious meals with friends and family). So we eagerly wait for entire year for Durga Puja. If you have not yet experienced Durga Puja in Kolkata make sure you add this to your “Must do things before I die” list. ❤️