What is Durga Puja all about?
Durga Puja is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. It’s a celebration of the Hindu Goddess Durga and her feminine power for the remarkable victory over the evil buffalo demon Mahisasura. This Hindu festival has been mainly celebrated in West Bengal, Assam and other eastern states of India since very old time. But the popularity of the festival rose dramatically during the British era as people collectively started to fill the colours in it.
Durga Puja in Kolkata is somehow completely different than how it’s celebrated in the other parts of the country. It’s not merely a religious festival involving the co-related ceremonies, but a glorious celebration of its own.
Over the passage of time, Durga Puja has become something beyond the boundaries of rituals and cultural tradition in Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal. The Bengali people, who are quite famous for their happening lifestyle, have been enlivening Durga Puja with their artistic expressions in the most wondrous ways since ages. And without a doubt, they will keep embodying this celebration up to the next level in the upcoming years too.
Ultimately Durga Puja has now turned into a multi-event grand festival, that celebrates everything what makes human life joyously living. They do it with the creation of a glamorous world in the territory of their “city of joy”. This magnificent festival celebrates faith, relationship, art, food, love, music, talent, freedom, dream, history, creativity, science and a way of living in the most exotic way possible.
The Joe De Vivre of Kolkata during Durga Puja is something that can give you a fair idea of why Kolkata is called the “City Of Joy”. During the entire festival of 10 days, the city gets a restless fever of an unknown origin. It’s probably not the answer of India to the famous carnival of Rio De Janeiro or carnival of Venice. But it’s our own local version of the festival that boasts one of the largest art installations in the world at a single place. Entire Kolkata is adorned by the artistic attire of dazzling lights and insightful pandals with various themes that can give a wondrous shock to your eyes.
This is the very same time when days and nights in Kolkata look similar as sleep gets magically vanished in the madness of festivity addiction. The whole population of the city along with the suburban area get on the streets with boundless zeal. A walk of every metre through the streets of Kolkata during Durga Puja simply brings a treat to your senses, and you end up living it- whether be it a roadside eatery or a small settlement of fair, whether be it a plinth of artists showing their talent or a small shopping destination. To be honest, I never have seen such an intense human spirit of celebration in masses. So let me talk about some of the main highlights with interesting facts about Durga Puja that should definitely be known by everyone.
The largest “Open Art Gallery”
“Not a single seeking artist in Kolkata remains unemployed”. This fact is the proof why art has become a mainstream presence in this grand carnival.
Generally, with a call of organizers, all the artists are used to gather at a single place in masses. Just next to it, they work almost continuously for many months to create something unworldly.
Will you believe that working on the theme of pandals for next year Pujo generally starts from the day next to the festival end?
To your surprise, the persistent work goes on for the entire year to reach the unimaginable goals of creators. There is no kind of construction or theme, either imaginary or out-of-dreams that can’t be turned into reality by these local artists, and this is what we generally witness during Durga Puja. With an unflinching dedication, they are hardworking and dextrous enough to come up with something surreal every year that simply makes us WOW for a while. All of these getting together makes Kolkata the grandest virtual art gallery no one even wants to miss exploring!
- The Magnificent Pandals
This is the very same thing from which everything usually starts. Not a single society, residential block or street end of Kolkata remain silent without the presence of grand pandal(temporary home to goddess Durga and her relatives with her core motives). The officials claim it to be 10,000 to 15,000 pandals getting constructed in Kolkata, which is around 40% of total Pandals seen in entire West Bengal during Durga Puja. Though the exact number of pandals in Kolkata is still a mystery and every year the numbers get increased even.
Once you confront such pandal, there a feeling like you are going to enter a different world created with a different vision. What you need to see here is how a mere idea or concept is given a shape and turned into unbelievable reality in the form of miniature settlement! From it’s exterior to interior, extravagant illumination to intricate work, mind-boggling subjects to detailing, nothing is as delightful as pandal hopping in Kolkata during Durga Puja.
The thematic approach
One of the fascinating things about Durga Puja is that the concept of celebration has reached to every aspect of human life, either to inspire, make one realize, make someone aware or infuse much-needed sensibility as much as possible. The pandals are being made on various sensible themes that simply gives us an idea of how Bengali people believe in worshipping. They make pandals with the theme of social problems like child abuse, female foeticide, rape, female trafficking, or redefining the stigmas like LGBTQ, prostitution, AIDS, other inherited abnormalities. They also work upon the themes of climate change, pollution, man-made disaster and related subjects. You will have a historical overview at many places, like a pandal taking you to the typical old Kolkata with quintessential charm, taking you to any remarkable historical event or giving you the complete glimpse of any unknown tribe and their rare lifestyle.
Some of them will bring you back to your childhood, while some of them will take you to the roller-coaster ride connected to the old days of rural life. Whether be it newer scientific inventions, any recent remarkable incident, popular place or movie from mythology or fiction, or unmatched geographical journey of any destination, Kolkata is used to be full of such insightful pandals during Durga Puja. One of the most touching things I found is the thematic pandals for physically disabled people. Like for blind individuals, the pandal will allow you to sense the subject with the specially made touching objects, and you can reach to the core of what they want to portray.
All of these things denote that this festival is not just for all, but it’s for everyone and everybody who wants to have a productive platform for their insane excitement.
The extravagant decoration and illumination
Most of the all famous locations are lit up with neon glittering lights, electric bulbs or highly illuminating minute objects that could give a spontaneous feast to every witnessing eye. From the very old time, electricians from different cities were used to arrive here for producing specific kind of elaborating light illumination. This is one of the most important things without this festival is totally incomplete since it’s the night that magnetizes the most of crowd during the festival.
The Nostalgic spirit of celebration!
This is what makes this festival insanely happening. For every festival of any region, people get vehemently excited for a particular reason that is associated with that festival. But Durga Puja is a festival in which the entire crowd get crazy for every single thing related to it. There are government holidays in Kolkata during Pujo time. People forget even what kind of work they are doing, and rush out to markets for shopping before everything. They do the shopping for the entire year during this time, buying everything they want. The colourful traditional Bengali clothes sit at the top of this list.
With the omnipresent traditional attire and universally happy smiles, they take the zeal of festivity to the streets with their entire family. It’s a universal homecoming for Bengali people, who are scattered in various parts of the world, being involved in almost every field. Nothing is wrong to call it a grand together of family members, relatives, friends and old school couples, whose mandatory meeting is a part of Pujo progressing. A Bong residing in another city always comes up with his or her friends from that particular city to let them enjoy the unwatchable vibes of the festival. This particular thing adds the charm to the festival as there is a sheer feeling of cheer to this festivity all around, in every heart, at every corner and it remains till the end. From a child to the oldest man, Durga Puja brings the adrenaline in veins of everyone.
A fair of food!
Kolkata’s food culture is world-famous since very old time. But what makes this festival more vibrant is the availability of a myriad variety of foods everywhere! As people keep walking here and there for pandal hopping during the entire day and night, they need to have a regular belly therapy. That’s why every food-making enthusiastic will settle up his own stall at any corner and would love to spread the love with his magical hands.
The rolling culture in India is said to be originated from Kolkata. A desi version of wrap or Frankie is “Kathi Roll” or simply “roll”. This is something you shouldn’t miss tasting when in Kolkata during Pujo. What comes next to it is typical Bengali biryani, as they have added spicy-boiled potatoes in that. You will find it in almost every street, and you definitely don’t want to miss it.
How can we forget Phuchka, a Bengali version of Gol-Gappa! Kolkata is identified from the presence of Phuchkavala, Jhal-muri vala and Bhelvala everywhere. And how can your eyes get away from these small-cute set-ups during Durga Puja? Phuchka will surely fill you up with the all spicy tastes you lack in your life. But local Radha-Ballabhi from small eateries is like a ritual for Pujo hoppers.
We all know that Bengal is a synonym to sweets. Not to forget, Rosogolla has to be in your bucket list in the very beginning. Once you start, you shouldn’t stop here as Misti Doi, Gur Sandesh has to be ready next for the exploration by your taste buds.
Having a food walk during Durga Puja with famous Bengali delicacies will surely turn out as one of the most memorable moments of your life.
And wait! You aren’t done yet. The food-walk while pandal hopping shouldn’t be completed without having Kulhad Chai or famous Culcatti Pan! That’s simply like icing on the cake.
The most sensitive time for Indian economy
This largest street festival of the world has a net economy of around 1.2 lakh crore in the year 2019. This is almost equivalent to 10℅ of West Bengal’s GDP, which is 13 trillion recently. One of the most interesting facts is, despite having an of economic slow-down in the country, the Durga Puja is simply preserving its marvellous shine this time too. This sums it all, that how every sector is contributing to the huge movement of money during the festival. Though the scale is very huge to get proper findings, people from the entire state give their all to make it possibly the biggest festival happening around.
Corporate sponsorship in Pujo is a reason why it has now become the professionally managed event working with a chain to meet some desired fruition. Most of the multinational company and famous brand invest in Pandals for marketing purposes as they know that they are confronting the unique target audience in the highest numbers. Not to forget, this is one of the reasons why Puja has become so vibrant and grand with its presence.
So this is all about Durga Puja and its grandeur that will definitely put you in wonder if you aren’t acquainted the facts. The celebration generally starts with Subho Mahalaya(Day 0), when the arrival of Goddess Durga at every home and every street Pandal happens. Bengali Durga Puja is somehow different due to their unique rituals like Kumari Puja, Sandhi Puja, Dhanuchi Nach, Sindhor Khela, Bijoya and Chokkhudan. The festival generally ends up at day 10 after unending celebration throughout all days, when idols of Goddess are paraded in the city with the crazy celebration and then immersed in the water of the river or ocean. But the zeal and jest are always there to await the next year as life is a one-time offer, and Bengali people don’t want to stay behind for grabbing this opportunity of living.
Durga puja is not just a festival, it’s a festival of festivals