Durga Puja, the autumn festival dedicated to Goddess Durga, has always been Kolkata’s identity to the rest of the world. The association and the spirit with which people from all faiths and communities come forward to celebrate the biggest carnival of the world in terms of gathering and celebrations, showcases the true meaning of harmony.
This spirit makes India a different nation altogether from the rest of the world, which shelters and shares happiness and festivity with everyone. In this fast influencing age of new media, the radio-recitation of Maa Durga’s advent on Mahalaya day in the identical voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra piercing through the early morning cool hues still captures the mood of every Bengali which remains all through the festival.
The flowing of Kashphool and the fragrance of the Shiuli flower also declare the beginning of Devi Paksha which also symbolises the beginning of Maa Durga’s journey from Kailasha accompanied by her two sons Ganesh, Kartik and two daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati. Thus starts the Navaratri celebration all over the country.
Meanwhile, the celebration across the Kolkata city emerges with the beauty of idols and the creativity with which the pandals are made. Thanks to corporate support and stiff competition among puja organizers, the race for excellence and to be the best amongst others, makes the attraction far meaningful.
The stunning idols or the innovative themes with which the pandals are decorated, captivate the curious crowds of devotees in the City of Joy, which does not sleep for five days and the streets of the city are crowded with people in moods.
Love founds its expressions mainly amongst the youngsters, as it is the time to spend with your close and loved ones. Frenzied pandal-hopping in new clothes, meeting friends and family and feeding yourself with traditional delicacies, make the festival more colorful for all.
Men clad in traditional dhoti and kurta while women mostly with red-bordered white and off-white sarees are to be found around every Durga Puja pandals, arranging everything from flower to bhog and to playing a perfect host to guest who comes hopping one after another Durga Puja pandals, which with creative themes and hard hitting message attracts one and all. The pandals with chants of “Jai Durga” and “Bolo Durga Mai Ki Jai” makes the festival of grace more graceful.
In Kolkata, each year around 3,000 community pujas and 5,000 family pujas are organised and the number is increasing every year. Each and every community puja, organisers come up with innovative themes, also makes the city a different planet altogether but the tradition and heritage remains intact.
The Durga Puja is usually a five-day event with Sasthi, and the subsequent four days – Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami. Sasthi, the sixth day of the lunar calendar also marks the beginning of the puja rituals. Kalparamvo (the beginning of the pujas), Bodhan (the consecration of Maa Durga’s idol), Amantran (inviting the Goddess) and Adhivas (sanctifying the stay of the Goddess on the exact spot where the puja is being held) are performed in community puja pandals and households where the deity is being worshipped with zeal.
During this period of five days every morning begins with the shankha along with the sound of dhaak: the large drum that men hang around their shoulders and play with two thin sticks to infuse the feverised rhythm into each and every listener.
The evening begins with the ‘aarti’ and after aarti, the same fire is used to light the coals in the dhunachi pots. Durga Puja is not complete without dhunachi dance. It’s a devotional folk dance with dhunachi pots in both the hands of a devotee, who prays to the Goddess with the rhythm invoking the spirituality within.
Thus, the days are passed with the invocation of Shakti within each one of us. If the essences are to be followed in spirit, the respect of