It's that time of year when the city of Kolkata wakes up with 'pujo pujo gondho' (the scent of puja in the air). Durga Puja is more than just a religious holiday; it is a celebration of existence and the joy of living that expresses the city itself.
Those who grew up in the 'City of Joy' can say that the city is currently resonating with the healing sounds of dhaak (the beat of a traditional drum) and the reverberation of conch shells, which is nothing short of exquisite. The pujas are, without a doubt, the ideal time to visit Kolkata, West Bengal.
Walking down the byways and into every nook and cranny, you gradually sense the city's pulse. The city never sleeps, and its residents party all night, with thousands of brilliantly adorned 'pandals' lining the streets, tasty Bengali foods on every corner, and women in vivid 'laal paar' sarees. The celebrations begin a week ahead, and if you're thinking of visiting Kolkata, here's a guide to help you organize your trip. Check it out.
Significance of Durga Puja
Durga Puja, a vibrant and widely celebrated Hindu festival, holds profound cultural and religious significance. It primarily commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil.
This festival is particularly significant in West Bengal, India, where it's the most awaited and elaborate event of the year. The festival typically spans ten days, with elaborate rituals and grand processions. Devotees construct magnificent pandals (temporary decorative structures) to house intricately crafted idols of Goddess Durga and her divine entourage. These idols are worshiped with great fervour.
Durga Puja transcends religious boundaries, uniting people from various backgrounds to celebrate art, culture, and heritage. It fosters community and togetherness as people gather to revel in the festivities, share delicious food, and exchange gifts. Additionally, it serves as a platform for artisans and craftsmen to showcase their talents by creating these awe-inspiring idols.
Durga Puja is a religious event and a cultural extravaganza that epitomizes the spirit of unity, artistry, and the eternal battle between good and evil, making it a cherished and much-anticipated festival in India and beyond.
Important days during the Durga puja festival
Durga Puja Kolkata 2023 is a multi-day festival that typically spans ten days, with each day holding its significance and rituals. Here are the important days during Durga Puja:
- Chokkhu Daan - The rites of Durga Puja begin with the creation of the Goddess's idol, except the eyes, weeks before Navratri begins. The goddess is worshipped and invited to the earth on the occasion of Mahalaya. On this day, also known as "Chokkhu Dan," the eyes are also painted.
- Grand Procession - On the sixth day of Navratri, the goddess is welcomed with energy and enthusiasm. With the goddess's wonderfully decorated idol and Ganesh's idols. The spectacular procession of Kartikeya, Lakshmi, and Saraswati enters the brilliantly painted pandals and houses where the Durga puja is held.
- Kola Bou Bath - This is the ceremony in which the goddess's presence is evoked in the idol. This occurs early in the morning on the seventh day of the puja. A little banana plant is dressed in a saree and bathed before being carried in the parade. Along with that, some rituals and prayers fill the entire environment.
- Dashami - Dashami is the tenth day of Durga Puja, also known as Vijayadashami. A vast crowd gathers around the procession and offers their prayers as it goes to the ghat. The goddess's idol and other idols are immersed in water on the ghat.
How to Celebrate Durga Puja in Kolkata
Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, comes alive during Durga Puja, a festival that's religious and a grand cultural extravaganza. It's a time when the city transforms into a kaleidoscope of lights, colours, and festivities. Celebrating Durga Puja in Kolkata is a unique experience that combines traditional rituals with modern entertainment. Here's how you can make the most of this joyous occasion:
What to Eat
- Sweets and Desserts: Durga Puja is incomplete without indulging in an array of sweets. Rosogolla, Sandesh, Mishti Doi (sweetened yogurt), and other Bengali sweets are a must-try. Local sweet shops and street vendors offer these delectable treats in abundance.
- Street Food: Kolkata's street food scene is legendary, and during Durga Puja, it reaches its zenith. Be sure to savour classics like Phuchka (pani puri), Kathi Rolls (spiced rolls), and Jhalmuri (spicy puffed rice) from the numerous stalls that pop up around pandals.
- Traditional Bengali Cuisine: Many local restaurants and food stalls serve authentic Bengali dishes like Macher Jhol (fish curry), Shorshe Ilish (Hilsa fish in mustard sauce), and Luchi-Alur Dom (deep-fried bread with potato curry). Dining at traditional Bengali eateries is an experience in itself.
- Food Stalls at Pandals: Most Durga Puja pandals have food stalls offering diverse culinary delights. You can explore various flavours, from biryanis to kebabs to fusion dishes, ensuring there's something for every palate.
Activities to Do
- Pandal Hopping: The heart of Durga Puja celebrations is the pandals, temporary decorative structures that house the idols of the goddess. Pandal hopping is a popular activity where you visit different Kolkata puja pandals to admire their artistic themes, decorations, and idol craftsmanship. Each pandal is a work of art, with some replicating famous temples while others showcase innovative, contemporary designs.
- Cultural Performances: Many pandals host cultural programs and performances, including traditional dances, music concerts, and drama. These events provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Bengal. Don't miss the "Dhunuchi Naach," a dance with a smoking incense burner, which is an integral part of the celebrations.
- Pushpanjali: To seek the blessings of Goddess Durga, devotees perform Pushpanjali, a ritual where they offer flowers to the goddess while reciting prayers. This sacred act is performed at pandals during specific time slots and is a spiritually enriching experience.
- Sindur Khela: On the last day of Durga Puja, married Bengali women participate in Sindur Khela. They apply vermillion to the goddess and then to each other, symbolizing the bond of marital harmony. It's a joyful and vibrant tradition that's a sight to behold.
- Immersion Procession: On Vijaya Dashami, the festival's final day, the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in rivers or water bodies. The "Bijoya Dashami" immersion procession is a grand spectacle with processions, music, and dancing. Joining this procession is a profound way to bid farewell to the goddess and celebrate her victory over evil.
In Kolkata, Durga Puja transcends religious boundaries and becomes a celebration of art, culture, and community. The city's streets come alive with the spirit of festivity, making it a must-visit destination during this auspicious time. Exploring the culinary delights, experiencing the grandeur of pandals, and participating in age-old rituals are just a few ways to immerse yourself in the magic of Durga Puja in Kolkata.
Top 10 Durga Puja Pandals You Must Visit
Here are some of the most renowned Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata in 2023, where you can immerse yourself in the festivities and seek the blessings of Goddess Durga:
- Ekdalia Evergreen: Nestled in Gariahat, this puja, established in 1943, is known for its unique artistic representations of temples nationwide.
- Kumartuli Park: Commencing in 1995, this puja stands out for its meticulously crafted idols and creative themes that captivate onlookers.
- College Square: This venerable puja, founded in 1948 near a central Kolkata lake, preserves its age-old traditions and is celebrated for its simplicity and inherent charm.
- Santosh Mitra Square: Located in Bow Bazaar, this puja dates back to 1936, formerly Sealdah Sarbojanin Durgotsav, and is admired for its intricate artistic displays.
- Jodhpur Park: Positioned in South Kolkata, near Jadavpur Thana, this famous pandal surprises the city with diverse themes and innovative elements each year.
- Badamtala Ashar Sangha: Organized for 75 years at Kalighat, South Kolkata, this puja received accolades for its creative excellence in 2010.
- Bose Pukur Sitala Mandir: Located in the southern part of the city, this pandal has earned recognition for portraying rural Bengal through motifs, idols, and artwork.
- Suruchi Sangha: For five decades, this New Alipore, South Kolkata puja, has been celebrated for its state-of-India-themed artworks and installations, including an idol tailored to the theme.
- Mohammad Ali Park: Established in 1969 on MG Road, this puja is famous for its exquisite replicas of architectural marvels.
- Bagbazar: A century-old puja along the river in North Kolkata, Bagbazar is beloved for its traditional rituals and the timeless simplicity of its celebrations.
In Kolkata, Durga Puja is not just an annual festival; it's an experience, a celebration of life, art, culture, and tradition. The city awakens to the rhythmic beats of dhaak and the aroma of incense, and it comes alive with vibrant colors, brilliant lights, and a sense of communal joy. For those who grew up in the 'City of Joy,' it's an annual homecoming to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of the festivities.
The significance of Durga Puja extends beyond its religious roots. It's a testament to the unity and diversity of Kolkata's people. The grand processions, the creative pandal themes, and the mouthwatering Bengali cuisine all come together to create an unforgettable atmosphere. The festival expresses devotion and an ode to artistry, where the city wears its heart on its sleeve.
Exploring Durga Puja in Kolkata is not limited to traditional rituals; it's about embracing the entire experience. The culinary delights, ranging from iconic sweets to delectable street food, make the journey a gastronomic adventure. The artistry displayed in pandals and the creativity in idol-making elevate the festival to a visual extravaganza.
For those who embark on the journey of pandal hopping, it's a thrilling experience. But there's more to explore in the City of Joy during Durga Puja.
While visiting pandals, you can also take leisurely breaks to enjoy traditional Bengali snacks, like hot Kathi Rolls and crispy Phuchka, available from street vendors. This combines the thrill of discovery with the joy of savouring delectable treats.
Durga Puja in Kolkata is not just a celebration; it's a tradition, a carnival, and a spiritual journey. It's an experience that engages all your senses, from the sounds of the dhaak to the aroma of sweets, from the vibrant colors of the pandals to the taste of authentic Bengali dishes. Whether you're a resident of Kolkata or a visitor, Durga Puja is an annual spectacle that captivates and unites all who witness it, leaving an indelible mark on your heart and soul. So, plan your visit, indulge in the festivities, and savour every moment of this grand celebration in the City of Joy.
- Is Kolkata crowded during Durga Puja?
Yes, Kolkata experiences significant crowds during Durga Puja, as millions of residents and tourists gather to celebrate this grand festival, making the city's streets and pandals bustling with activity.
- Where to do Durga Puja shopping in Kolkata?
Gariahat Market, Burrabazar Market, New Market, and Hatibagan market are the top places for Durga puja shopping in Kolkata. Other than that, there are several malls to visit.
- Which part of Kolkata is famous for Durga Puja?
Ahiritola Sarbojanin Durgotsab, Bagbazar, Mohammad Ali Park, and College Square in North Kolkata are some of the most notable pujas. Puja pandals in Hindustan Park, Ballygunge Cultural Association, Deshapriya Park, Maddox Square, and Suruchi Sangha are famous in South Kolkata.