Kolkata, Pujo Asche! | Pandal Darshan and More
Witness the City of Joy become the City of Art for the 5 days of this auspicious festival. Put on your finest outfits and indulge in the best of food Kolkata has to offer during Durga Puja.
It’s time for Durga Puja!
That time of the year again, when Kolkata comes to a standstill and welcomes the magnificent goddess, Maa Durga into their homes and lives. It’s true that nothing compares to Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata. The city doesn’t sleep and its people - completely decked up from head to toe, enjoy the revelry to the hilt. Its five days of celebration with themed pandals and traditional Pujos, colourful sarees and even brighter lights. Dhunuchi naach, the sound of dhak and an engaging fragrance of flowers, Bengal boasts some of the most enthralling pandals with innovative themes and grand idols of Goddess Durga.
Check out the events for pandal hopping and more
Excited about the festival but don't know the dates? Check them out below:
- Mahalaya (first day) - Saturday, September 28, 2019
- Chaturthi (fourth day) - Wednesday, October 2, 2019
- Panchami (fifth day) - Thursday, October 3, 2019
- Shashti (sixth day) - Friday, October 4, 2019
- Maha Saptami (seventh day) - Saturday, October 5, 2019
- Durga Ashtami (eighth day) - Sunday, October 6, 2019
- Maha Navami (ninth day) - Monday, October 7, 2019
- Dashami (tenth day) - Tuesday, October 8, 2019
The Evergreen Mahishasura Mardini Radio Program
It’s a way of life for the locals and for everyone else, it's a must to visit Kolkata during the Pujo and experience it all first-hand. From beginning your day with the iconic “Mahishasura Mardini” by Birendra Krishna Bhadra to doing the annual Pujo shopping, here are 10 reasons why one should not miss this grand spectacle in Kolkata:
See Durga idols being made
The beautifully handcrafted idols of Goddess Durga sure are stunning. However, you'll appreciate them even more if you see the effort that goes into making them. The majority of them are crafted in one area - Kumartuli in north Kolkata, around 30 minutes drive from the city centre. If you look around, there are idols everywhere, some as small as your palm, others as tall as 15 feet! The idols are sent all over Kolkata and even abroad. There are other shops too, which sell the weapons and other accessories needed to decorate the idols. Photography is allowed, but not without a fee. If you go there on the occasion of Mahalaya (around a week before Durga Puja starts) you'll be able to see the eyes being drawn onto the statues in an auspicious ritual called Chokkhu Daan.
While the idols are the talk of the town, it has always been amazing to see how craftsmen shape the fantastic pandals with bamboo, canvas and coloured cloth; there is no construction, imaginary or real, that they cannot give shape to. With the explosion of themes and the entry of artists and art school students, the pandals and idols are cast from various things. The result? Kolkata turns into a virtual walk-through gallery. You will find large crowds moving across the city, enjoying the various pandals and their decor.
Attend the ritual of Kola Bou bathing
Durga Puja commences with the invocation of the holy presence of Goddess Durga into the idols. The ritual begins early in the morning, before dawn, with the bathing of a banana tree in the Hooghly River. The banana tree is dressed like a newlywed bride (known as "Kola Bou", the banana bride) in a sari, and used to transport the goddess's energy. The best places to attend the ritual are Prinsep, Bagh Bazaar and Ahiritola ghats.
Go pandal hopping
The highlight of Durga Puja is no doubt visiting the many different displays (pandals) of Goddess Durga, each with a unique theme or decorative style. This activity is commonly referred to as "pandal hopping". There are thousands of pandals in Kolkata so it's only possible to visit a fraction of them - and even then it requires a bit of strategic planning as they're spread out all over the city. You'll find the most well-known ones in north and south Kolkata, which is conveniently connected by the Metro railway. The most popular time for pandal hopping is at night when they're lit up. But if you plan on going during the day, you can avoid much of the crowd.
Visiting more than hundreds (probably thousands) of pandals is not possible in just five days. So, here are some of the best ones that you can visit that are known for their most elaborate and innovative themes, and even attract people from all over the world: Kumartuli Park, College Square, Bagbazar, Hindustan Park and Sikdar Bagan Sadharan Durgotsov.
Witness the illuminating lights at every para
Colourful lights and elaborate creativity turn Kolkata into a fairy town at night during Durga Puja. In fact, what was earlier known as 'Chandannagar lighting', the illumination executed by electricians from the district town, predates the trend of holding theme-based Pujo. With advanced technology, the illumination has gone up several notches and if you venture out in the streets, you’ll see these 'light' paintings all across town.
Experience a traditional Bonedi Barir Puja
While Kolkata's public Durga Pujo tends to get all the attention, the traditional "Bonedi Barir" pujas in the city's palatial old private mansions are also really worth experiencing. They're spread out across Kolkata (as well as other major towns in Bengal). Two of the most famous ones are Sovabazar Raj Bari and Rani Rashmoni Bari in North Kolkata.
Participate in a Kumari Puja
The Kumari Puja is another significant ritual that's performed during the Durga Puja festival. During the festival, Goddess Durga is worshipped in various forms. In this ritual, she's worshipped in the form of a young unmarried girl. This serves as a reminder that the goddess and her energy are omnipresent in all beings. Belur Math in Kolkata holds an extensive program of rituals for Durga Puja, including a special Kumari Puja.
Dance for the Goddess
After the evening rituals on Ashtami and preparing for the Sandhi Pujo for Navami, it's traditional for the devotional Dhunuchi folk dance to be performed in front of Goddess Durga to please her. This is done holding an earthen pot filled with burning coconut husk and camphor. On the beats of the Dhak, the dancers showcase their various moves - smoke, sound and rhythmic swaying engulf the atmosphere! The dance is inclusive and anyone, men and women, can join in. It has become so popular that people have started organizing competitions! So if you've got some moves or just an avid dancer wanting to try something new, Dhunuchi naach is perfect for an adrenaline rush and even burn some calories in the process.
Eat to your heart's content
There's never a better time to sample Kolkata's famous Bengali cuisine than Durga Puja. The festival isn't considered to be complete without food! You'll find a wide array of it everywhere - on the streets, at the pandals, and in speciality Bengali restaurants. Hopping from one pandal to another, day or night, does make you hungry. This is the time to check out the street food. A nibble here, a bite there and you are good to go!
If you visit any of the pandals during the day, don't forget to try the food served to visitors at the pandals called bhog (offerings to the god which are distributed). It commonly consists of khichdi, a mixed vegetable curry, a sweet dish like rasgulla or gulab jamun, fried pakoras like aloo bhaja or beguni, paayesh and chutney.
But when it comes to street food, some of the fastest moving foods are the Kathi roll, fish cutlet, fish chop, Mughlai paratha, Kolkata-style chicken/mutton biryani and momo. Don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian, they have options to satisfy your cravings too, like aloor chop, samosa, radhaballavi cholar dal, luchi aloo dum, and a very ‘desi’ version of stir-fried noodles or ‘chowmein’. And of course, how can there be pandal hopping without a puchka refuel along with the spicy and tangy jhaalmuri and Kolkata-style bhel.
And once you're done with all the spicy, chatpata food, end it on a sweet note! Any Pujo is incomplete with some famous Bengali sweets - from roshogulla, mishti doi, sondesh, the list goes on...
One of the most charming and emotional reasons why you should visit Kolkata and stay till the end is for is Dashami. This is the day when the goddess is immersed in the Ganges. There’s more to it. This day, the married ladies in the house come over to their para pandals and play Sindoor Khela. Family meets, the younger generation pay respects with Shubho Bijaya and pronaam…At the same time, it’s the immersion hour, which is sad but with a hope of coming back next year.
Witness the immersion of Durga idols
Durga Puja comes to an end with the Immersion Ceremony where converge and sing and dance till the Goddess is immersed in the holy waters of the Ganges. Popularly known as bhasan, people usually have a ball on the streets and smear each other with colours while dancing to popular music. The immersion rituals taking place at major ghats like Babughat are a sight to behold! This is definitely one occasion where you can witness the sheer magic of the city.
One of the most popular immersion points is Babu Ghat (centrally located near Eden Garden), although you'll be able to catch the action at any of the ghats along the river. An excellent way of seeing it, is by boat. West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation conducts special immersion boat cruises down the river. Otherwise, head to Red Road to watch the Durga idols being taken in procession to the ghats as revellers chant, “Asche bochor abaar hobe!” (It’ll happen again next year!).
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