Updated: Oct 8, 2018
Durga Pujo, also known as Durgotsava means the ‘the ebullient celebration of Goddess Durga after her victory over the demon, Mahisasura'. Every year it is believed that Ma Durga comes visiting with her children, Lakshmi (the Goddess of Fortune), Saraswati (the Goddess of Learning), Kartik (God of Strength) and Ganesha (the elephant-headed God of Triumph).It is not just any festival bringing the city of Joy to a halt but is a festival that brings people together all across India. The fun, food and the fervor that Durga Puja brings is something that can’t be replicated. The entire city turns into a beautiful dreamland of joy and togetherness.
It starts with Mahalaya, the resonant rendition of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, sending goosebumps on true blue Bengalis with smell of Shiuli flower, the landscape dotted with kaash phool. Durga Puja spans across 5 days starting from Shoshti to Vijayadashami, bringing a jubilant fervor to the entire world, crossing geographical boundaries. You must visit the "City of Joy" once to experience the vigor, enthusiasm, warmth and love that is offered.
Once you are in a mood to come down to Kolkata, schedule your pandal hopping on any of these 5 days properly to avoid the crowd and beat the Bengal summer. You can think of visiting the following pandals which hit the top ranked ones in Kolkata:
Ekdalia & Shinghi Park
FD Block, Salt Lake
Mohammad Ali Park
Santosh Mitra Square
Now this must have got all of you onto your enthusiastic and ebullient toes. But let's give you a reality check: for people not accustomed to humid weather (especially Bangalore folks like me) or really crowded places, you can have the following tips handy to have your Bong land tour easy-breezy!
1. Plan your pandal-hopping schedule: Yes! You heard it right. Pandal hopping can be made more comfortable if you choose to visit them at the right time to avoid crowd. The famous pandals can have immensely long lines. Imagine you are all decked up for the visit and looking forward to enjoy the portico's view. Instead you are stuck in the line for an hour! The best time to do the famous ones would be early morning or late night. The pandals are breathtakingly stunning during the evening hours because of the lighting. If you are an adept planner, you must start hopping around 2 days before the actual pujo starts so that you can tick off the well-known, celebrated pandals.
P.S. Flight tickets to Kolkata are double their original prices even if you book them prior to 3 months. So make sure you have enough time in your hand while booking the tickets.
2. Clothing: This is for everyone including kids. Try to wear cotton or linen fabric which can help absorb and remove moisture caused by sweat. Ladies! Heavy sarees (chiffon, silk etc) are a strict no-no for day-time pandal-hopping if you don't prefer weather dependent mood-swings ;).
3. Makeup: Do not even think of stepping out of your house without applying sunscreen. The scorching sun and sweat can easily drop down your energy levels, leaving behind a terrible tan for days (or even months). You can always opt for a very minimalistic look with the basic stuff: foundation, bindi, kohl and obviously your glares!
4. Driving & Parking: Prefer travelling in ola/uber/yellow cabs during this festive season because parking is an inevitable problem. And why to bother when you are dressed up in a gorgeous saree or a daroon (bong translation of "fabulous") kurta!
5. Phone charge: For all the folks out there who are passionate about photography, keep your camera battery charged all the time. People who are planning to blog/vlog, it is recommended to carry around a power bank. Who knows, when your phone battery can give up and you would be left with no pictures/videos to share on Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram!
6. Keep drinking water: Peeps! Don't forget to keep yourself hydrated in the sweltering weather. You can carry or buy water bottles on the go.
7. The MOST IMPORTANT one "Footwear": Yes, you heard me right. This one thing can either bring or take away your smile. Most of the pandals will have the area around them cordoned off to restrict vehicles. This means you have to walk a lot or wait in the queue to wait for your turn. Please do not venture into fancy footwear giving you shoe bites.
8. "Bhog", "Adda" and much more: Now that all of you folks are ready to get into your pujo attire and set-off for pandal hopping, lets give you a flavour of the most exciting part to look forward to: BHOG. The ritualistic bhog has delicious khichudi, papad, laabda (mix of 5 seasonal veggies), tomato chutney, begun, aloo dum and aloo bhaja is served, and of course the generous helping of payesh and roshogolla.
It’s no secret that Bengalis are hard core foodies. And Durga Puja is a prime example. While the other parts of the country celebrate Navratri by fasting every day, Bengalis totally have the time of their lives, eating fish fries, mutton rolls and mughlai paratha. Fasting is restricted to daytime, till ‘pushpanjali’. Our Gods are pretty adjusting and chilled about this stuff.
But the food fest doesn't end here. You will find the pandals being often lined with many food stalls, selling the best Kathi Rolls, kebabs, fried fish, biryani, cutlets, chops, phuchka (golgappe), ghugni and papdi chat. The round of gorging on delicious food ends only on the evening of Vijay Dashami with a good serving of Mutton Biryani or some Mutton Kosha and loochi (a close cousin of poori).
9. Dhunuchi Naach: On Ashtami (eighth day of Navratri), men and women perform Dhunuchi naach along with the rhythmic beats of Dhak. One needs to balance the earthen bowl containing burning incense (either with hands or on the forehead or in the mouth). Wait for a picture showing me doing Dhunuchi Naach last year below. :)
10. Shidur Khela: Durga Pujo celebration comes to an end on Dashami (the tenth day). This is marked with an age-old customary ritual known as ‘shidur khela’ (playing with sindur) where married women apply vermilion to each other’s faces as also to Goddess Durga dressed in the traditional Bengali attire.
Sharing with you all some snapshots of Durga pujo celebration through my eyes :)
Mahalaya: Ma Aashchen! Tune into Mahalaya which marks the onset of Durga Pujo rhyming with the feelings of paying homage, tarpon, to the departed souls by dipping in the holy water of the Ganga.
The idols in making!
The quintessential Ma Durga protima.
The different areas of Kolkata have their own ways of decorating the pandal!
The idols can be portrayed in a simple yet poignant style.
This was one of my favourite pandals. I love how the unique sense of shades of blue used. Not to forget the peaceful and calm look on Ma Durga defeating Mahishasura.
The intricacy, hard work and joy of the idol-makers is well depicted in the pandals.
It is a mind-boggling thought to have when it comes to so many months of planning and work goes into bringing Ma Durga into the City of Joy. :)
There is something about the colour of "red". Ma Durga looks exquisite in the typical Bengali attire.
A stunning capture of Ma Durga.
Last year, I had worn this gorgeous saree, hand-painted by my Ma. :)
Having my own "Palat" moment!
Again, one of my mom's creations. Needless to say, mother-daughter duo is obssessed with Buddha!
My mother enjoying her "Sidur Khela" moment!
Ma-Maashi bonding and telling each other "Aashche Bochhor Abaar Aashbe Ma" (coming year, Ma Durga will again visit us).
The typical saree Bengali women wear during Pujo!
My first-time Dhunuchi naach performance!
May Ma Durga give us strength to win over evil! :)
This Durga Pujo, follow me and my fellow bloggers as we take you on along with us onto the mind-boggling and breath-taking journey of Durga Pujo celebrations! Read, comment, share and don't forget to follow the hashtag #bloggersdurgapujo on Instagram and Twitter! :)
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