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Durga Puja or Durgotsava is a festival which is celebrated annually in the Indian subcontinent to please the Goddess Durga. The festival is popular in the Eastern part of the nation, particularly in the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, and Odisha. The date usually falls towards the end of the month of September or the start of October. The festival is particularly popular in the city of Kolkata, where it takes a whole other meaning.
Durga Puja in Kolkata – How to Experience it
Ideally, you should be in the city around a week before the festival starts. You can rent a car in Kolkata, in order to go around and witness the finishing touches being put on the idols to be used for the Puja.
The Making of the Idols
The making of the idols for the puja will have started long in advance, and you will still be able to see how they are made when the festival nears. Kumartuli is the place where most of the Potter families reside, and is located around half an hour towards the north of Kolkata – so you will have to use Savaari’s cab service in Kolkata to get there. Going there, you will be able to witness the amount of work that goes into each idol, in order to make it perfect on the day.
Even if you are not there a week in advance, you can still have fun during the festival – particularly in the night of the festival, in the carnival-like atmosphere.
Kola Bou Bath
The Puja commences on the day with the Kola Bou Bath ritual, which involves invoking the presence of the Goddess into the idols. A banana tree is decorated like a bride, and the tree is bathed in the waters of the Hooghly River to transport the energy of the Goddess. This starts early in the morning, and the best places to witness these are in the Bagh Bazaar, Prinsep or the Ahiritola ghats.
The main highlight of the Puja festivities are the many pandals which will have been decorated in their own unique ways. The pandals are created by neighborhoods or societies in the city, who have a friendly competition between them for the best decorations in the city. Most of the best pandals are located towards either the north or the south of the city, and there are thousands of them – so it will not be possible to visit them all. If you go during the day, you can avoid most of the crowds, but the nighttime would make them more beautiful owing to the light effects.
Durga Puja is one of the most frenetic festivals of the state, so the extent of the Bengali cuisine is put on full display during the three days. Pandal hopping is sure to get tiring after a bit, so what better way to replenish your energy than to revel in Bengali cuisine? Sweets, meals, and bhog, which is a full meal distributed to visitors watching a puja are especially must-try during the days.
Durga Puja brings out the best in Kolkata, as the city truly unites in festivities in every way – it is definitely a must-see if you plan to visit the city.