Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My first Pujo in Kolkata(2007)

Here is a little account of a “non Bengali” spending Durga Puja in Bengal. For the uninitiated, during Navratri which is known as Durga Puja here, one sees the entire, West Bengal decking up with bright lights and giant Pandals to accommodate a torrent of happy people who flock to revel in the best of Indian craftsmanship and culture this side of the coast!

Having known how we celebrate Navaratri in the South with Gollu, and sundal, and in the west by Dandiya/Garba, the nine nights of festivities is something else in Kolkata..

The haunting beating of the Dhaak(Local Drums) beats echo from every corner, fragrance of the delicate "shiuli" flowers wafts in the air and as a multitude of traditionally dressed people, take to the streets. The city has suddenly been transformed into a place of light and sound as Durga Puja is back after a year-long wait. 

The Puja-crazy Kolkatans could not wait for Shasthi(17th October) to arrive. Many revellers, in fact, like some of my colleagues, had started pandal hopping right from Panchami itself. What is "Pandal Hopping"? Well it is a sport and something one does in groups of friends and relatives. Cars and booked, maps taken, so that prize winning and novel pandals are visited. The intricate pandal work, the ornate ceilings, the themes, the goddess figurines all add to the magic of the festival.

This did remind a bit of ganesh chaturthi in Mumbai, when we used to do pandal hopping and 'counting" the number of Ganeshas one saw in the season. Very similar but the Pujo is beyond Comparison

Mela type fairs for children, shops with discounts, Misthi, Puchkas, and theme food joints marked the celebrations.
Whether it was Sribhumi at Lake Town in the north or Badamtala at Rashbehari Avenue in the south or Mohammad Ali Park on Chittaranjan Avenue in central Kolkata, the frenzy that took off on Tuesday was at its peak on Wednesday with people thronging the pandals from morning till night. Though light rains in the afternoon may have augured a wet Pujo, the sun reappeared bringing with it it the element of joy again..

Kolkata this time witnessed pujas mostly dominated by varied themes - including the temples of Java, a Santhal village, the Hogwarts Castle of Harry Potter and global warming - reflecting social concerns and depicting creativity at its best.

Five-days of celebrations of Durga Puja finally ended as West Bengal bid a poignant adieu to the goddess and her children on Sunday, marking another yearlong wait for her autumnal homecoming.

However, the frenzied immersion ceremony of the idols of Durga, complete with elaborate processions, dance, beating of drums and cheers by youngsters, saw Bengal making most of the Jamboree.
In keeping with the customs, the idols of Goddess Durga along with those of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Subramanya(Kartikeya) - the four children of the goddess - were immersed with much fanfare, after the womenfolk smeared the deities with Sindoor.

Special pujas were held as the day progressed. Married women prayed for the well-being of their families. Sweets were distributed as friends and relatives wished 'Shubho Bijoya' (Happy Bijoya Dasami) to each other

What can I say? Make it to Kolkata at least next year during the Pujos. Its like nothing you have ever witnessed before. Am addicted and a confirmed fan for sure.

Kolkata, October, 2007