Durgotsav or Durga Puja is the festival when goddess Durga is worshipped. But for people in Kolkata, this is an extravaganza, it’s much more than just a festival; it means family reunion, new dresses, adda (chat), bhog, food, an exhibition of finest craftsman, which can be appreciated and cherished by pandal hopping.
More than 2000 Sarbojonin pujas are organized in Kolkata and around 500 of them are big (renown)
Preparation for the Puja
The planning takes months. The hard work from the artisan and designer creates something exclusive and beautiful. Theme Puja has become increasingly popular each theme, try to convey some social messages through their mandap like to avoid plastic, unity among people, environmental issues
The focus is not only given on the mandaps/pandals (Marquee) but also on the idol of the mother goddess which is skillfully crafted by the artisans. Many idols are created based on the Puja’s Theme.
After months of hard work, the pandal is inaugurated by some celebrities and is then opened to the public on the day of Chaturthi(4th day). For past few years some popular Puja Pandals got innagurated during Dwitiya(2nd day) and Tritiya(3rd day). Thanks to Google Maps and some new mobile apps the people won’t face any problem finding the Puja Pandal.
With the inauguration, the crowds started pouring in the pandals. The number increases with an increase in the days. As they say, the crowd is directly proportional to the days.
One can not only find the queue in pandal but also at restaurants and this queue increases every day till Dashami.
Eating Around During Puja
The menu of the restaurants gets shortened during this festive period of 7 days. Dishes that take more time to prepare or unpopular dishes are generally removed from the menu. So if anyone is planning for lunch or dinner during the festival, it’s better to reserve(may not be available at all restaurant during this period) your seat earlier or prepare to wait for long hours. I being an impatient guy always end up eating fast food like sandwich, burger, momos or pizzas from the roadside stalls.
Transport Choices during the Puja
Now coming to the transport; if you are planning to go around the city to witness some pandal during Puja there are many public means of transport available in the city buses, trains, metros, taxis(yellow taxi, AC taxis, Ola, Uber etc…) and most of the transport agency (travel agency) who rent their cab along with their driver.
The prices of Ola and Uber really fluctuates and most of the time its quite high. we ended up paying 900 which was supposed to be Rs 350 normally. The availability of car gets difficult as the day progresses, also the price gets higher, so I will advice to take an OLA or UBER rental . I remember one of my friends did book an Ola and quite intelligently he did it at around 3:00 am for 6 hrs I think for which he didn’t miss the lighting but he was fortunate enough to miss the crowd.
In my opinion local suburban trains and metros are best mode of transport to travel during Durga Puja. However while travelling by Metro I would recommend to get yourself a smart card else you may have to wait behind a long queue of travellers to get your ticket.
With the sound of Dhakis drum, the Puja formally starts from Sasthi (Bodhon).Most people choose to go out from Saptami evening as most of the office get shut on Saptami. So more crowd can be expected in pandals and metro also switch their service hours; instead of operating in morning hours they start from 2:00 pm and continue their service till 4:00 AM.
Due to a heavy crowd, it’s also very difficult to find parking so one can expect to walk a long distance to see a pandal. Many roads get blocked. In 2017 Deshapriya Park did that amazing Durga idol in 2015 and a very good marketing campaign for which the whole crowd was rushing there so as a result Rash Behari Avenue was choked.
Mahastami(8th day) means Anjali and Bhog.(mostly khichuri) and more pandal hopping. One can see wonderful Dahanuchi dance performed on Dhak’s tune by the people at puja pandals. The crowd numbers keep on increasing till Nabami (Mahanabami).
One of the few things that people hate during Puja is the rain. Well as you can see in the photo that it’s raining. But still, you can find the pandals crowded.
Earlier few organizer used to give awards to the pandals now almost every pandal win some awards and I guess they all deserve it for their hard work and dedication.
And with sweet full in her mouth, the mother goddess and her family bid us goodbye and we bid her goodbye with a wait for 1 year.
I have excluded Durga Puja rituals as I don’t have much sound knowledge on it. So to summarize about Durga Puja in Kolkata I would say its everything of Bengal; the rituals, the fun, the art, the eating. etc.
Despite just mentioning about Kolkata I would say not only all of Bengal but every Bengalis around the world celebrate with lots of enthusiasm be its India or Outside India.
Few days of fun and Bengalis eagerly wait for this festival since the year’s beginning. I don’t know much about other festivals but Kolkata during Durga Puja has to be best.
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