Video: The Untold Story Of The Durga Puja Pandals
Durga Puja is one of the many festivals in India and to a Bengali around the world, it is more of a sentiment. Durga Puja is about celebrating woman power and the triumph of good over evil. It is about endless sessions of adda with your friends and family at the Durga puja pandal.
Durga puja is about losing track of time and what day it is. Durga Puja means sitting in awe of the strength and beauty of the goddess herself during sandhi puja while 108 lotuses and 108 diyas are lit and offered to her. Durga puja is a playground for creativity and the best of art is displayed in each idol and pandals. Durga Puja is about everyone coming together and celebrating the goodness of life.
The artisans and idol makers of Kumartoli and a few other areas in Kolkata are the real stars as they mould the structure with their art that is then gone on to worship. The idols are prepared several months before the celebration, except for one part: their eyes. They are only drawn on ‘Mahalaya’ that is a few days before the festival commences. This process is known as ‘Chokkhu Daan’, meaning the Goddess is invited to earth. North Kolkata’s Kumartoli area which is a porter’s quarter makes for the best place to witness the art of sculpting the idols.
Though the Eastern Part of India leads the grandest celebrations of this festival, however, the rest of the country celebrates with just as much fervour. Let’s take a look at some of the best places in the country to experience the grandeur of the durga puja festival.
1. Kolkata Durga Puja Pandal
The City of Joy simply had to top the list. If there is one place that could give you an authentic experience of the pomp and gaiety with each Goddess Durga is celebrated, it has to be in Kolkata. The whole city breaks into a mode of celebration and look like an exquisite fair with unique displays of lights, pandals and idols. Kolkata Durga puja pandals are a treat and pandal hopping is one of the main activities. There are a couple of thousand pandals in the city and it’s not possible to visit all of it.
The main ones however are well connected by the local metro between North and South Kolkata. A few must visit durga puja pandals would be: Ekdalia Evergreen, Maddox Square, Bosepukur Talabagan, Jodhpur Park, Babu Bagan, and Dum Dum Park. Another attraction of Kolkata Durga puja are the traditional puja’s hosted by zamindar houses.
These are being conducted for over centuries, some are as old as 300-350 years ago. Some of the must visits raj baris or zamindar houses are Shobha Bazar Raj Bari, Sabarna Roy Chaudhari Bari, Darjee Para Mitra Bari, Baghbazar Haldar Bari, Rani Rashmoni Roy House and Jorasanko Dawn House. Also, to a Bengali food is a religion by itself. So be prepared to find a wide array of it everywhere — on the streets, at the pandals, and in specialty Bengali restaurants.
Tip: Don’t hesitate to pair your Indian outfits with sneakers or sports shoes as a pandal hopping involves a lot of waiting in queues and walking. Always carry water with you to keep yourself hydrated.
2. Mumbai Durga Puja Pandal
The City of Dreams is home to a huge community of Bengalis who organise quite a few Durga puja’s around the city. These pujas give not just Bengalis but other communities an insight into the Bengali culture. These Durga puja pandals have stalls that provide a feast of the best Bengali and Kolkata street food delicacies. Also, for all of the five days bhog is served to over thousands of people as a part of community service. The five days of bhog, aarti, feast and cultural programs organized by Bengali communities during Durga Puja turn Mumbai into a mini Kolkata. Some of the must visit Durga puja pandals are NotunPalli Durgastov in Bandra, The famous puja hosted by the Mukherjee family of Bollywood in Juhu, The Powai Sarjobojanin Durgatsav in Hiranandani Gardens, Vashi durga Puja and Chembur Durga Puja Association.
3. Varanasi Durga Puja Pandal
With Varanasi being the oldest living city and the spiritual capital of India and being home to a massive population of Bengalis, it is not a surprise that this city and its people go above and beyond to have the best of the celebrations. Across the city uniquely designed pandals are set up with stunning structures of the goddess. In Varanasi what will feel like an unmatched experience is joining thousands of people at the Baageshwari Devi Durga Puja Samiti at Jaitpura. The other pandals to visit in Varanasi are Baba Machhodrantah Durgotsav Samiti, Sanatan Dharam Inter College amongst others.
Tip: While in Varanasi don’t miss out on taking a rickshaw ride around the older parts of the city, gorging on the amazing street food that Varanasi has to offer and visiting the Ganga ghat for the evening aarti.
4. Delhi Durga Puja Pandal
India’s capital does not fall far back when it comes to marvellous celebrations. The pandals in Civil lines are known for their artistic idols. The most interesting part is that they still follow pre independence Bengali tradition of immersing the idol on a bullock cart. Chittranjan Park that is famous for being home to a huge population of Bengalis, considered to be known as Mini Bengal also has the highest concentration of Durga Puja Pandals and the whole area makes for a vibrant experience. The other must visits are the Kali Bari pandal, Kashmiri Gate Durga puja and Minto Road Puja Samity.
5. Bangalore Durga Puja Pandal
The Southern part of our country is also big on celebrating Durga Puja. There are quite a few pandals with 5 days of bhog and cultural programmes, Bangalore has plenty in store for you. The cultural programmes have artists from Kolkata setting the stage on fire with their performances. The pandals also are full of stalls that dish out delicious Bengali delicacies. Here are a few Durga Puja Pandals are Amader Pujo near Brigade millennium, Shree Shree Durga Puja near Kormangala, Barsha Durga Puja at BBMP ground, Whitefield Durga Puja at Whitefield and Anandotsab at Bellandur that make for must visits.
Ultimately, words will never do justice to the splendour of Durga Puja. In most parts of India there lies an opportunity to experience the grandeur of this festival. Starting 14th October 2018 till the 19th, make the most of the festive season and seize your own chance to have a first-hand experience of this vibrant culture and traditions.
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