Durga Puja is not only a Festival- It is about Celebrating Life

Durga Puja

I have been contemplating to write about my festival for a very long time and was just thinking what do I actually feel about it ? Now, when I was far away from Kolkata while the festival celebrations was in full swing .   I really felt, I should pen down my experience about this festival. By the time I finish my story , Durga Puja will be far and gone but the emotions and the feeling will linger on deep within my bengali heart.

I was born and brought up in the Bengali para of Delhi, Chittaranjan Park . Where the festival is not just about few days of worship but it is much more beyond that . It is about celebrations, functions , various creative competitions, fairs-exhibitions, friends reunion , endless adda and reaffirmation of happy self.

Infact, to be honest , I feel to any common Bengali person, it is a festival which is being celebrated throughout the year and his/her entire life’s planning is done revolving around that .

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I remember my initial days, how I used to be excited to plan up those 5-6 days right from the start of the year . Be it for what trend I would follow, what would I eat or who will I meet? Infact,  Durga Puja is all about gaiety and grandeur for many in different ways . For a kid or a student its about getting time out with their friends in new clothes or eating all good /bad/junk food without restrictions from their nagging parents. For some , just taking few days off for a forced break and then there are people like me who are now utilising the leaves in order to head to a holiday destination just to relax . I would still say, we are all celebrating in our own ways .

So, coming back to the festival part which is now being recognised as one of the world biggest carnival. Quite a proud moment for all Bengali’s.

Durga Puja or Durgotsav is the annual Hindu festival which is celebrated as a mark of victory for Goddess Durga over evil demon “Mahisasura”. It also signifies the presence of strong feminine force as a mark of “Shakti” in the face of universe. Durga Puja is celebrated over the last five days of Navratri, but starts on the same day as Navratri with Mahalaya.

The entire period of Durga Puja is commonly divided into three phases, which are Pre Puja preparations, During Puja celebrations and Post Puja recollection .

PrePuja preparation

Kolkata gears up for the next years Puja right after the idol immersion of the previous year. There is an immense planning which takes place in order to decide on the theme and the budget of the big scale puja. Also, for the barowari puja ( Puja which is conducted in private individual homes) , there is a great deal of planning and preparation involved . Kumartoli (the famous artisan’s place in North Kolkata) gears up for final delivery of numerous idols by this time.

Mahalaya –

“Mahalaya” ushers the ritual by welcoming the Goddess Durga and her children Lord Ganesha, Kartika, Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati. It is from this day that the Durga Puja fever begins. Durga Puja starts from the seventh day after Mahalaya and ends on the tenth day of Dashami or Dussehra. On this day, Chokkhudan happens which means Goddess is given her eyes. Thousands of devotees throngs to Ganges or any holy river to pay homage to their late ancestors in the form of “Tarpan” right from the break of dawn . Mahalaya calls for excitement amongst all as officially we step into the final preparation for a 5 day grand celebrations. Also, in a common Bengali household, family tunes in to the All India Radio to hear the melodious chants of Mahisasur Mardini which is recited by late narrator Birendra Krishna Bhadra at 4 am.

Durga Puja

Days before actual Puja, there is generally lot of hustle bustle in the markets, or perhaps in the hearts of young and the old. The joy of meeting old friends, eating out , pandal hopping, shopping together and spiritual alignment in those days just revvs up. 

So, the Puja fevers actually ushers from the onset of Mahalaya. And, in Kolkata , some of the renowned puja committee unofficially opens the pandal for visitors right from day one so as to draw the attention. 

During Durga Puja Days

Elegance of North to the Opulence of South Kolkata- Durga Puja is more than just idol worship

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From the elegance of the north to the opulence of the south .. which style you prefer the most ? . . Traditional charm of #NorthKolkata or the Artistic creativity of #SouthKolkata ? . . I love the striking comparison and a friendly competition about what gives more happiness to all individual … . . Keep tuned with #travelwithvagabong for few of my #storiesofbengal series .. . . Also, have you watched my video on #durgapuja2018 ? If not , then link is in my bio . ====================================== #bengalgram #bengal_feature #kolkata #kolkatablogger #indiaclicks #incredibleindia #natgeoyourshot #festivalofindia #calcuttadiaries #calcuttacanvas #ig_kolkata #kolkata_igers #photographers_of_india #shotonredminotepro5 #exploringindia #trippyowl #suruchisangha #condenast #natgeoyourshot #vsco #photographers_of_india #mypixeldiary #shutterstock #shohorkolkata #travelblogger #bloggerstyle

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So, the actual festive dates usually falls somewhere between September or October months of each year depending on the Bengali calendar. Those 5 days shows the result of extreme planning, preparations and lavish presentations at all levels. By the third day which is “tritiya” , the festival welcomes the paparazzi around bigger pandals. Usually outside Kolkata, as I have witnessed before , puja officially starts from Panchami or the fifth day but due to massive quest and enthusiasm , many of the renowned places in Kolkata inaugurates the puja on third day itself.

In Kolkata, one can witness largely three types of Durga Puja .

First is where one can witness various display of theme based community pandals where they showcases the best representation of artistic creations with magnanimous display of lights and various quirky props. This is generally a common attribute of South Kolkata Pujo where such vibrant grandeur display is evident. The captivating decorations is a common sight on every street, in every “para” of South Kolkata.

Few of the very very famous and must to be visited pandals which always steals my attention are Ekdalia Green , Tridhara Sammilani, Hindustan Park, Ballygunge Cultural, Chetla Agrani, Suruchi Sangha , Bosepukur Sitala Mandir or Behala Chowrasta just to name a handful out of thousand names. Each year there are various competitions where accolades are given for the best theme to Best Idol of the year. However, this is all part of commercialisation or to attract enough attention to create monetary funding to aide them. So, the craze to stand the best out of all just fuels up .

Second type is in North Kolkata, where one can find more traditional setting. The focus is more on the traditions here, where the idol are mostly in “ek chaala” with age old traditions to be strictly followed every year. They usually focus on the traditions more than the theme or decor. Due to smaller spaces in North Kolkata ( which is also the older part of Kolkata), the focus is more on the idol than the pandal. And, one can witness the non commercialisation of the same to some extent out here. Some of the very renowned puja in the North that cannot be given a miss are BagBazaar Sarbojonin (one of the oldest north kolkata large scale community pujo dating more than 100 years) , Ahiritola, Kumartoli , Telenga Bagaan, Kor Bagaan, Chalta Bagan, Kashi Bose Lane Durga Puja, Santosh Mitra Square just to name a few. These puja will always be evergreen and will be in must-to-visit places of almost all pandal hoppers and photography enthusiast.

The third type, which has always caught an undivided attention of many Kolkata lovers are the Bonedi Bari & Barowari Pujo. It is believed that the colonial time of Pre-Independence Era, many erstwhile affluent families or the Zamindar families had the tradition to conduct Durga Puja in their ancestral big homes just to show their status and wealth to the commoners. And in order to do that, massive celebration used to take place along with ritual which later passed down their generations in order to carry on the legacy. Hence, Puja usually is taken place in the house only, where all the members and relatives are fully involved in this 5 days ritual. Right from the time of Devi Paksha starts till the Bishorjon (immersion of Idols) happens. The family members from far away land unites each time to bring out the festive tradition in a most perfect manner. It is often quite a site to witness the grand celebration which take places in various times of the day. Traditions like Dhunuchi dance, Shondhi Pujo, Shonday Arati , Bhog distribution, Pushpanjali or Sindur Khela each families has an age old tradition which they follow religiously without fail.  There are many such renowned Bonedi Bari Pujo in and around Kolkata which takes place with much pomp and paparazzi. Some of them for suggestions would be Laha Bari, SovaBazaar Rajbari , Pathuriaghata Khelat Ghosh Bari, Chattu Laatu Babu Durga puja, DarjiPara Durga Puja and Roychoudhury  family Aatchala Durga Puja. The list is endless but until and unless one explores on foot to step into each daalans (courtyard of olden days houses ) it is really difficult to even estimate that how many unknown saga of Bonedi Bari Puja are still to be discovered.

 

So, the five days of celebrations starts from Chaturthi and continues till Dashami night. Endless sleepless night, no curfew hours to rest, sleep, eat or to do anything under normal discipline per say. From the young to the old, everyone looks forward to live their days full of joy, celebrating life.

Post Puja Recollection

Bijoya Dashami or the last day of the five day long Durga Puja comes to an end with Devi’s farewell . As we step into Dashami day which also marks as Dusshera in the North or Vijaya Dasami in South India commemorating the joy of Victory over Evil.

Heart and the mind tends to get sadden from Nabami Night as we slowly inch towards the final day of her return and to bid her off on Dashami. Next day the major ritual of “Devi Boron” is done in order to pay off respect before she is bid goodbye with her bisarjan.

In the morning, once the Devi Boron is over, largely the married women takes part in the glorious ceremony of Sindur Khela or the Rituals with Vermillion. It is believed that everything has to end on a happy and prosperous note and hence her farewell is also done in a grand way . She is treated with sweets / beetle and is decorated for her final journey. It is also believed that for this couple of days, Goddess Durga arrives to earth to her parents, and she is pampered with a variety of bhog and prasad. Thus, when she finally has to leave, women give her a grand farewell as any daughter going back to her husband’s place would receive. While applying sindur on Goddess Durga’s feet and forehead they also pray for their happy and long married lives.

Once the Sindur Khela is over, family or the committee takes a grand procession of Maa Durga and her children and bid her goodbye by offering her last prayers and finally immersing in the river.  After the same, everyone comes back with the holy water and finally greets Shubho Bijoya by sharing sweets and other delicacy to each other.

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She defines power.. She defines beauty …she defines strength … One of the finest and the most celebrated ritual to warmly bid goodbye to Devi Durga is when all women comes together to rejoice in the moment of #sindurkhela and #boron.. Hoping that she will bring back equal joy and happiness next year … . . . Joyously cheering to the dhak tune of Maa… Aasche bochor Abar hobe !!! . . Culminating the moments of #durgapuja2018 in my #shohorkolkata . Swipe left for few moments captured in #barwari Puja of #northkolkata . . Stay tuned with #travelwithvagabong for more festival updates . ====================================== #festivalofindia #sokolkata #travelblogger #bloggerstyle #durgapuja #kolkata #ig_kolkata #exploringindia #incredibleindia #desitravellerclub #bengal_feature #bengalgram #vsco #beingmusafir #natgeoyourshot #cntgiveitashot #lonelyplanet #indiaclicks #india #bengaligirl #ritual #shutterstock #condenast

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Bijoya marks the last phase of Durga Puja but also gives way to other Puja which is then lined up. Just after three days, many of the Bengali household performs Lakshmi Puja at their respective household. The Bijoya feeling just lingers on as friends relatives continue to unite and visit each other’s home.  And the best part is , the joy then prevails at all time as we wait for the next year to come in a much bigger and brighter way by singing in our hearts  “Aasche Bochor Abar Hobe” .

Sindur Khela
Sindur Khela by married women

Very recently , West Bengal State government have also taken an initiative to arrange a grand Puja Carnival which is held every year just two three days after the Puja is over . This is held in Red Road-Kolkata,  which is much similar to Republic Day parade where they showcases all popular idols in the form of processions. There are various cultural function which takes place for 4-5 hours. One can definitely head there to witness all the famous puja in one place.

Also, news doing rounds this year that Durga Puja has now been nominated for Unesco World Heritage status .

Durga Puja
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What I feel that this is one festival which primarily signifies happiness for all entity as the divine brings in victory in the heart of all laity by uniting them with one purpose of spreading happiness. What else could be a better way to celebrate life , isn’t it ?

Here is a short video on Durga Puja 2018 .

So, this was my opinion about this festival , what you feel about this ?

I would love to hear about your festival as well, in the comments section .

You may also like to read about :

       Things to do in Varanasi 

Or, a spiritual guide to Nepal

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Comments

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  1. Rachelle

    Wow, you’re right – Durga Puja isn’t just a festival, but a major celebration. I had no idea just how much preparation goes into the planning of the celebration. I know it’s sad to have such a great experience come to a close, but it gives festival-goers time to reflect on the meaning of it all, and prepare themselves for the next one!

  2. Amanda

    I had no clue what Durga Puja was until this post, but I must say, I’m intrigued! The pandals caught my attention the most, and no doubt do the same to others. It reminds me of the parades we have and decorating floats to be the most extravagant. What an incredible celebration!! No wonder you feel the way you feel about it. I think I would too.

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  3. Biswa Bhowmick

    Thank you for the detailed post on the Durga Puja festival in West Bengal. The photographs are wonderful and brought back many memories. It was very nice to read the details on the pujas held by old families in the city and to also know about the marked difference in style found in different parts of Kolkata.

  4. Lisa

    What a fascinating festival! I’ve never been to India or heard of this before, but I like the colorful costumes and the traditions behind it. I also love that in essence it’s one big 5 day party and one where you celebrate life and its beauty! A lovely festival and photos!

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  5. Arnav Mathur

    This is a really well drafted article Debs and way too informative too. I was always curious about Durga Puja specially after following your journey through the streets of Kolkata last year.
    This is going to be a huge help for travellers visiting Kolkata during Durga Puja, to experience the festivities for themselves.

  6. Jane Dempster-Smith

    India has so many beautiful festivals each year. Durga Puja looks to be one of the most beautiful. I love reading about Indian festivals. The farewelling of Devi Durga and hoping that she brings back joy and happiness for the next year would be lovely to witness. A beautiful time for family. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Shreya Saha

    I couldn’t agree more, being a bong myself, I do not have much words to fit in the emotions that you have described here. Durga Puja is about celebrating life. I live in Thailand but I still manage to take few days off and visit Kolkata during the festivals and I did the same this year too. I can relate to your emotions well and yes, after coming back to Thailand, I stumbled upon this blog now and I am already missing it. Btw, “aschhe bochhor abar hobe”!

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      Debjani Lahiri

      Hai re .. thik bolechish .. i have been a probashi all my life before settling down in Kolkata but the festival fever whereever i be is unique cannot be compared

  8. Kavita Favelle

    I’ve never attended a Durga Puja festival but I’ve heard about them so I enjoyed reading your personal thoughts about your experience and how significant it is for Bengali persons. It was good to read about the preparations and celebrations, and the meanings behind them.

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  9. Danni l

    Can totally understand how important this would be – not only as part of culture but also identity. The idea of celebrating life and its beauty sounds incredible. Interested to read also of thr Puja carnival as a way to see famous puja 🙂

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  10. Amar Singh

    There is something magical about Durga Puja in Kolkata and your post brought back some great memories of the city of joy. Whether you are a Bengali or not if you stayed in Kolkata it was part of you and you celebrated it with as much as passion. Staying away does make me miss it mite and I have promised myself to return to the city during the pujo season soon. The visuals are stunning and you managed to get some great shots which gave added mire life to the post.

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      Debjani Lahiri

      Thank you Amar, I am sure you would relate to the feeling rather than ritual . Since you once said you hail from here . This city has that aura which surely makes you feel nostalgic.

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