They say that you have to be in Kolkata and experience the festivities surrounding Durga Puja to really fathom what it means to the city. I couldn’t agree less after I partook in the festivities for the first time last year. The 9 day affair, a period more popularly known as Navaratri, is celebrated in honour of Goddess Durga, who according to Hindu mythology emerged to destroy the demon Mahishasura.
The zealous merrymaking really comes in sight only from Shashthi, the sixth day of the puja, when thousands of pandals across the city are open for visitors. “Pandal hopping”, seemed to be the centric activity during this festival and hence from Jodhpur Park, to Ekdaliya, to Deshapriya Park, I had visited several pandals. It was no less than a carnival scene with the crowd thronging stalls of food and games lined on either side of the streets to the pandals. However, it is the pandals which leave you awestruck. From a mammoth bee hive, a large boat, to a forest in a cave I had entered several differently themed pandals and all of them housed beautifully decorated, grand idols of Maa Durga. As opposed to the hullaballo outside the pandals, the inside was rather serene.
As Shashti came around this year, we reminisced about the aesthetics of the idols and the artistic allure of the pandals we visited last year and made plans to explore the awe inspiring pandals made this year. However I can’t help thinking that Durga Puja in Kolkata is more than just “pandal hopping” but rather a celebration of the victory of good over evil and rejoicing the homecoming of the divine Maa Durga.
So if you are in Kolkata and indulging in some pandal hopping like me, don’t forget to gorge on the delicious Bengali sweets available all over the city and slurp on the ever present masala chai available at a tea vendor in every nook and corner of the city truly called the City of Joy!