Durga Puja in Kolkata

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I have a strange feeling of déjà vu.

It’s a feeling which is somewhat similar to the one I have when I occasionally need to use pen and paper to write something of reasonable length. Being more used to writing on my laptop/desktop, I find the pen moving awkwardly when I first put it on paper. Gradually the speed picks up, and the handwriting also improves (relatively speaking, of course).

So, when I started writing for my blog after a pretty long time, I find my thoughts coming in fits and starts….hopefully it will improve as I keep on writing this post. Hopefully, I have not lost my touch (don’t know if I had one, in the first place).

 Today I want to talk about and share some photos of Durga Puja. It is a 10 day religious festival celebrated primarily by Bengalis all over Kolkata and the state of West Bengal. It is also celebrated in other parts of India, and nowadays even in different countries, wherever you have significant number of Bengalis. It is the celebration of goddess Durga’s victory over the king of demons, Asura. Although it is a Hindu religious event but I consider it more of a festival, because, honestly speaking, it is less of a religious event, and more of a social event! And, people from across religions and regions join in to celebrate it.

 

Greater men have tried to put in words the amazing experience of this festival in Kolkata. I feel that it is somewhat like swimming! If you want to enjoy it, you have to jump into the water!! No amount of words, photographs or videos can substitute the experience. So, if you have not seen the Durga Puja in Kolkata yet, plan a trip. You won’t regret it!

This year Durga Puja was celebrated in the 1st week of October. During those 10 days, across the city of Kolkata and the state of West Bengal, every neighbourhood (‘Para’), every road witnesses construction of temporary structures, called ‘Pandals’. These are usually made of bamboos, which are mind-blowing works of art. The lighting is usually ambient, which enhances the beauty of the pandals. This gallery has some of the Pandals I visited this year.

There is a whole locality, named Kumartuli in Kolkata, which is where you will find most of the craftsmen who make the clay idols of goddess Durga. The idols of Durga are again amazing display of creativity and craftsmanship. Various companies and newspapers conduct competitions to select the best pandal and the best idol, and it is very prestigious to be able to win any of these awards. The next gallery shows some of the beautiful idols of goddess Durga.

And then there is the social aspect of the festival. To quote a friend of mine, Durga Puja of today is like the carnival of Rio de Janeiro or the Oktoberfest in Munich, where almost all people are engaged in the same celebration.  Of course, one has to keep in mind that similarity is in the huge number of people who celebrate an event, which in this case happens to be religious. Of course, the sheer magnitude of Durga Puja probably surpasses the festivals I mentioned! During the last 4 days of the festival, offices across Kolkata shut down and everyone joins in the carnival like atmosphere. Hundreds of thousands of people are out on the streets, moving from one pandal to another. There are temporary food stalls which sell various mouth-watering food items.

During the last 4 days, public transport is available round the clock, and even at 3 am in the morning, you will find heavy traffic on the roads and getting parking is a nightmare! Bengalis staying in different parts of the world, return home to join in the celebrations during this time. So, it is a time when people get a chance to catch up with old friends and family. Then there are smaller events within the greater event, which are so full of colour and so much fun! Take for instance the Sindoor Khela or Play with Vermillion, which takes place on the last day of the Puja. Married women smear each other with vermillion (usually, married hindu women put a dash of vermillion in the parting of their hair, as a symbol of marriage) which is such a delightful event to witness. I have put some those moments from the Sindoor Khela in the next gallery.

I could go on and on, and still not be able to explain the sheer scale of the event! Did I mention that you should plan a visit to Kolkata for the next Durga Puja? 🙂

Hope you enjoyed.

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22 thoughts on “Durga Puja in Kolkata

  1. I’ve noticed that your photos often seem to capture people in deeply felt, often joyous moments. Looking at these photos, I feel I’m somehow glimpsing life at its most meaningful. There is nothing ever superficial, even if someone is simply looking at a camera – it seems somehow to be of the utmost importance. You have a real talent for seeing and capturing these split-second moments. Thanks and keep sharing!

    • Thank you SO much!! Of course, on a lighter note, having a fast lens also helps!! But, what’s funny is , that I am always told that photography requires great patience. And, I am someone who is so hyper-active! 🙂

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