Durga Puja 2015 – Glimpses from Kolkata

Oh, does it make me melancholic writing this! Why? Because I resent not waking up to the beats of dhaaks tomorrow. Because I miss the madness of the seemingly timeless party on the streets. Because I miss the license by parents, to be loafing about outside- seeping in the essence of festivities. Because I miss all the revelry that consumed the City of Joy, mid-October.

Yes, I’m hinting towards Durga Puja.

Like every year, this year too saw the city lose itself in the moment of celebrations. And here, as a proud witness to the frenzy, I bring you some moments captured through the lens.

Presenting Durga Puja 2015- Glimpses from Kolkata!

But before I proceed any further, you, my dear reader, must go through this:

“A man in Delhi once asked me “What is so special about Durga Puja In Kolkata? It’s just as big as Diwali is here in the North”. I simply smiled and replied ‘You have no idea’.

Waiting for my late evening flight to Mumbai at the airport, I thought that there probably isn’t any festival in any city in the world that can match Kolkata’s Puja in intensity.

You can take the craze of Diwali in Delhi, Christmas in London, Summer Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Valentine’s day in Paris and then add it to the month long madness of Olympic Games or the World Cup and cram all that into a span of 5 days and you still wouldn’t know what you are missing if you haven’t been in Kolkata during Durga Puja”.

– Vir Sanghvi

Done? Very well, let’s begin, then!

First of all, let’s see how the city looks lit up?

Durga Puja Lighting
Vegas, who?

The city is lit up like a new bride. Different patterns and animated graphics are made by lights brought in, especially from Chandennagore. Most buildings in the city are decorated by lights as well.

Even the interior parts of city are as lit up as this.
Even the interior parts of city are as lit up as this.

The intricacies of the Pandal art

Art at a Durga Puja Pandal
Art at a Durga Puja Pandal

If you arrive early in the city, you can witness craftsmen at work in the Pandals. Different Pandals are themed around different artistic styles and concepts. As you go hopping Pandals, expect art forms of even distant corners of the world. Exceptional research is done by the artists responsible and a commendable effort by the craftsmen- with preparations beginning months ago! (The research often begins a year ago!)
For example, consider this Pandal which fuses two different art forms- one from the tribes of Tanzania and another from Orissa. The Pandal is decorated around the theme which results.

Durga Puja Pandal- Santoshpur Trikon Park
Durga Puja Pandal- Santoshpur Trikon Park

The spirited crowd which never tires

Crowd at 3AM
Believe me or not! This is around 3AM.

Yep. The caption is true. And this is not even the hottest favourites. It’s difficult to get a picture at the most crowded places, since the crowd pushes along (Yeah, India! But it’s fun, when you get the hang of it.) Which place else has such a varied crowd even at 2 or 3AM? The city never sleeps – you’re familiar with the cliche. The city never tires? Yes, Kolkata during Durga Puja!

People enjoying cultural program near a Pandal
People enjoying cultural program near a Pandal, Kolkata

Food, food… Everywhere!

A notable highlight of Kolkata during Durga Puja is- you can get any food, any time, any where. Streets, cafes, restaurants are a culmination of cuisines- the variety catering to the crowd that doesn’t want to lose time preparing food.

As a result, you can get:

Chaats at 12AM.

Chaats- Street food during Durga Puja, Kolkata
Chaats- Street food during Durga Puja, Kolkata

Malai Kulfi at 3AM.

Malai Kulfi- Street food, Durga Puja, Kolkata
Malai Kulfi- Street food, Durga Puja, Kolkata

Fuchka at 4AM.

Fuchka- Street food, Durga Puja, Kolkata
Fuchka- Street food, Durga Puja, Kolkata

So yeah, you can actually have your craving of midnight snack right from the stores. (If you’ve a life goal of having coffee at 3AM with your best friend, roaming the streets and chatting. Let me tell you- achievement complete.)

The interiors of the Pandal

Find some skillful craft and design as you go through the pictures. Some Pandals are really masterpieces in every sense of the word- find out why!

Art inside a Durga Puja Pandal- Kolkata
Art inside a Durga Puja Pandal- Kolkata
Art based on Hindu mythologies are quite popular in Pandals
Art based on Hindu mythologies are quite popular in Pandals.

A Pandal in southern Kolkata surprised people by using 2.5 crore safety pins! Below are some glimpses from the Pandal that drew crowd and breaths away!

Pandal made of safety pins- See if you can spot them?
Pandal made of safety pins- See if you can spot them?
The ceiling looked surreal- they're all safety pins. Who would've thought?
The ceiling looked surreal- they’re all safety pins. Who would’ve thought?

Even the jewelry of the idols were made by safety pins! And does not look too bad, eh?

Durga Puja idol, Kolkata
Safety pin jewelry, Durga Puja, Kolkata

Below are the more traditional idols, where no particular theme is followed:

Below are the favourite idols in the ‘daaker saaj’ or ‘sholar saaj which refers to the art form in which Goddess Durga is displayed.

Goddess Durga idol in the 'daaker saaj'
Goddess Durga idol in the ‘daaker saaj’
Durga Puja idol in the Sabeki style
Goddess Durga idol in the Sabeki style.

Because the streets are a vibrancy of businesses

The streets, in addition to being filled with crowds of people, also support several temporary food stalls and vendors who sell the kids favourites- balloons, bubbles etc. While it means joy for some, it means an opportunity to earn the bread for some. See, for example:

Bubbles- Durga Puja, Kolkata
Bubbles- Durga Puja, Kolkata

The man got so happy that I clicked his picture. He was more than happy to oblige and thanked us for the photograph. I guess it is safe to say that people on both sides of the lens were happy.

On the wrong side of the line? The kid selling balloons.
On the wrong side of the line? The kid selling balloons.

The plenty of cultural programs

During the Durga Puja, several cultural programs spanning different cultures of India are enjoyed by people. So, expect to see Kolkata exhibiting a pan-Indian cultural taste! See this.

Rajasthani music performance.

A taste of Rajasthani folk music in Durga Puja, Kolkata!
A taste of Rajasthani folk music in Durga Puja, Kolkata!

Bengali folk music.

Baul music, Durga Puja, Kolkata
Baul music is also very enjoyable!

Witness the Puja customs- some insight into Hinduism

Hinduism draws a distinction in the manner in which it worships the feminine. Witness how the customs are followed as you watch the festive fervor transverse across days from Panchami to Dashami.

The lotus flower is significant in the worship of Mother Durga
The lotus flower is significant in the worship of Mother Durga
Diyas being lighted for the 'Sandhi Puja'- the highlight of Navami
Diyas being lighted for the ‘Sandhi Puja’- the highlight of Navami
People worshipping Goddess Durga.
People worshipping Goddess Durga.
Aarti- the blessing by holy fire.
Aarti- the blessing by holy fire.
A pandit worshipping Maa Durga.
A pandit worshipping Maa Durga. Notice the fan of peacock feathers?

So, these are some glimpses of Durga Puja in Kolkata. Believe me, this is just an attempt to capture the extravagant carnival. If you’re read the passage quoted, you must have known why you should padhaaro into Kolkata to experience the festivity in its grandest! So, if you’ve missed this year, fret not!

Because as is cried out during the immersion procession, ‘Asche bochor, abar hobe!’  (Come next year, it will happen again!)

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This is a person who is into the trade of the quintessential Indian youth- Engineering.
He is currently pursuing Computer Science and Engineering from Haldia Institute of Technology. (You shall be spared the boring details.)
He has an interest in photography, exploration and travel; which is only superseded by a passion for writing and reading. Observant and pensive blended with an adventurous, instinctive personality. A game for challenges!

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