Hi, just close your eyes and think of "India".
Do you see colours? Do you see festivals?
Well, India is a amalgamation of diverse cultures. All round the year, some part of the country is busy celebrating one festival or the other. Hence, there is a colloquial saying in Bengali, "baro mashe tero parbon". It literally translates to "13 festivals in 12 months".
Like all other states, West Bengal also celebrates all the festivals of India. But, the grandeur of Durga Puja in Kolkata is unparalleled.
If you want to visualise the city where David Copperfield and Oliver Twist lived, then you must visit Kolkata. The cobbled streets and old houses are a perfect replica of the Victorian London. The best time to visit the City of Joy is definitely during the Durga Puja. The city is decked up like a Queen for the auspicious five days.
Artisans work for months ahead of the Durga Puja celebrations in Kumartuli. The streets of Kumartuli in the days following the Durga Puja are full of clay idols of the Goddess.
Every locality organises their own Durga Puja pandal. Pandal hopping is a major part of the festivities. After reaching the city, you should relax in an hourly hotel and get ready to pandal hop around the city. Some of the notable Durga Puja organisers in the city are:
- Saltlake FD Block
FD Block in Saltlake, Kolkata is renowned for the elaborately themed pandals. Each year, their offbeat concepts are very artistic and engage the viewers effectively.
In 2019, they re-created the land of the Lilliputs from Gulliver's Travels. The crowd went gaga about the Lilliputs and Gulliver.
If you are visiting Salt Lake, it would be wise to relax in an hourly hotel in the area while pandal hopping. Every block in Salt Lake has a park where elaborate pandals are built. You can easily spend a day or two just pandal hopping in Salt Lake, Kolkata. Salt Lake is home to many IT sector employees. If you have a product to sell, the Durga Puja Pandal vicinity can be a profitable spot for you. Over the day you can rest in an hourly hotel nearby.
2. Maddox Square
Maddox Square is a vast ground in Ballygunge, Kolkata. All through the year people visit the park for morning walks and exercise. Maddox Square hosts many functions where artists perform. The jam-session on the park grounds are also very famous. The "picnic" atmosphere is a homely feeling in the midst of other grand pandals.
Maddox Square is the perfect place to chill and feel the "puja" vibes.
Maddox Square is another great spot for vendors. If you are a vendor you can check in to a day-use pocket-friendly hotel. Such hotels can be booked only for hours used.
3. Sabarna Roy Chowdhury, Barisha, Kolkata
The oldest Durga Puja is celebrated in the ancestral Sabarna Roy Chowdhury Bonedi Bari in Barisha, Kolkata. A member of the zamindar family, Lakshmikanta Gangopadhyay, started the Durga Puja in 1610. The family has dutifully carried on the traditions over the 400 years.
You should visit the ancestral house to immerse in the authentic Bengali culture.
4. Belur Math
The eighth day of the Durga Puja celebrations is known as Maha Ashtami. In the morning of Maha Ashtami, Kumari Puja is held in Belur Math. A young girl, who has not yet attained puberty, is chosen. She is worshipped as the divine form of the Goddess. Devotees travel from far and wide to witness the rituals.
The entire event is so popular that it is aired live on multiple channels.
You must be a part of Kumari Puja in Belur Math and feel the harmony of the Supreme Deity with mere mortals.
5. Ekdalia Evergreen
Ekdalia Evergreen is renowned for the 77-year old chandelier. The chandelier is the major attraction in the posh pandal. While most organisers show their creative expertise in themes, Ekdalia has retained the traditional decor with chandelier and lights.
6. Bagbazar Sarbojanin Durgotsav
The Bagbazar Sarbojanin Durgotsav is one of the oldest publicly organised Durga Puja. It was started in 1918. They have firmly stuck to the age-old traditions. The idols are still built and decorated in the authentic style.
Well, the city hosts umpteen Durga Puja Pandals. Only a few of them are mentioned above. All the clubs and organisers compete to outperform each other every year. In their bid to win the various prestigious awards, the city is beautified many folds.
All the festivities are incomplete without the rituals on the last or 10th day. The day is known Vijayadashami.
The celebrations of Vijayadashami begin with "sindur khela". Married women in Bengal apply sindur or vermillion in their hair-partings as a sign of their marital status. Traditionally, married women used to smear sindur on each other to mark the end of the festival. Now, the trend has caught on among all the people including children.
Besides sindur khela, "dhunuchi naach" is another tradition practised to bid adieu to the Goddess. People dance with a "dhunuchi" to the beats of the "dhaak".
You should definitely try your hand at dancing a few steps with a dhunuchi. The atmosphere of revelry is bound to make anybody feel very delightful.
After all the proceedings, the immersion procession begins. It is a spectacular sight as all the idols proceed towards the Ganges.
Finally, all the idols are immersed in the river Ganga.
Thus, the Durga Puja celebrations come to an end for the year. People pray to the goddess to forgive their sins and show them the right path. They look forward to welcome her the following year.
After reaching the city by train, you can rest in one of the hospitable hourly hotels near the Howrah Railway Station. There are many hourly hotels near the airport as well. There are many couple-friendly hotels in Kolkata too. So, you can plan your trip with your lover as well.
Hotels in Kolkata become a bit expensive at this time of the year. You can always depend on hourly hotels for a fret-free enjoyable trip.
Nevertheless, you would surely enjoy your vacation in the City of Joy.