Durga Puja in Kolkata - Wild Voyager Blog
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Durga Puja in Kolkata

Durga Puja in Kolkata

If Mumbai is prominent for its Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, Kolkata has one of the grandest festivals featured, Durga Puja. The capital city does not leave behind any enthusiasm and euphoria while celebrating Durga Puja.

The festival is observed from September to October or during the month of Ashwin in the Indian calendar.

Durga puja kolkata
Durga puja in kolkata

Traditionally, the festival is celebrated for 10 days, where the last five days are prominent. During this period, pandals or tents open up to exhibit the glorious Goddess Durga idols. On the tenth day of the festival, the goddess is immersed in the water with grand processions and celebrations.

During Durga Puja, the occasion adds a festive vibe to the entire city of Kolkata. Soul and vigor are everywhere among people and devotees of the Goddess. She is hailed as the embodiment of protection, motherhood, and strength.

Here is everything you need to know about the magnificent Durga Puja in Kolkata:

The story behind the festival

As per Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga was created by the Gods to defeat the demon Mahishasura. Demon Mahishasura could not be defeated by a god or man but only by a female. 

It was Durga who killed Mahishasura and emerged victorious when the demon started creating havoc. In epics, she is seen as an independent deity. Her name in Sanskrit means ‘the impenetrable’ and appears as a warrior goddess. The followers of Goddess Durga believe she is the epitome of victory, liberation, and ultimate power.

Her many hands hold the weapons given by the Gods such as the chakra, conch, bow, sword, javelin, and more. Durga is also seen as the mother goddess in Kolkata, which is why her celebrations are anticipated greatly every year.

Rituals and practices observed 

The rituals and practices of Durga Puja remain different from one region to another. Kolkata follows its own set of customs from the start of the festival until the end.

Chokkhu daan 

The first day of the festival, also called Mahalaya, marks an auspicious ritual. On this day, artisans draw eyes on the idols of Goddess Durga. This is practiced because devotees believe the Goddess descends down on earth only after her eyes are painted. 

An artisan paints the eyes of Goddess Durga
An artisan paints the eyes of Goddess Durga

Deity comes home 

On the sixth day of the festival or Sashti, households bring home the idols of Goddess Durga. These beautifully sculpted and decorated idols either stay at home or sit in a public pandal. The idol is further adorned with flowers, jewelry, clothes, red vermillion, as well as sweets are kept in front of her. 

A massive idol of Goddess Durga seen in a pandal
A massive idol of Goddess Durga seen in a pandal

Accompanied with the Goddess comes the idol of Lord Ganesha who is considered to be her child as Durga is Parvati’s reincarnation.

Pran Pratishtha

On the seventh day or Maha Saptami, the pran pratishta ritual is observed to invoke the presence of the goddess. Early in the morning, worshippers carry a small banana plant called Kola Bou along a nearby river. It is then bathed and dressed in a red sari and brought back in a procession. 

A procession follows the Kola Bou ritual
A procession follows the Kola Bou ritual

The Kola Bou is placed near the idol of Goddess Durga. After this custom is performed, ritualistic prayers and puja take place for the remaining days.

Visarjan 

The tenth day of the festival called Dashami accounts for the day when Goddess Durga defeated Mahishasura. This day is also known as Vijayadashami and marks the time the Goddess prepares to leave. Excited devotees gather in large processions and carry the Goddess to the ghats. The idols are immersed in the water as people remain in high spirits. 

Goddess Durga immersed into the river
Goddess Durga immersed into the river

One of the most significant aspects is that women, especially married women, initiate the procession first by applying red sindoor or vermillion powder on the Goddess and then to one another. This is believed to be a symbol of marriage and fertility. 

How to enjoy the Durga Puja to the fullest:

If you want an immersive experience, it is recommended to visit Kolkata a week before the Durga Puja starts. However, there are several other ways to enjoy the festival as well.

1. See the idols being sculpted

The majority of the artisans who sculpt the idols of Goddess Durga reside in one famous area – Kumartuli in North Kolkata. Here, you can view the stunning sculptures of the Goddess and appreciate the efforts that go into making them.

Sculpted idols at Kumartuli
Sculpted idols at Kumartuli

You can also witness the Chokkhu Daan ritual where eyes are drawn to summon the presence of Goddess Durga on Mahalaya. 

2. Pandal hopping

During Durga Puja, thousands of pandals remain open to the public and showcase the grandiose idols of Goddess Durga, all over the city. One of the best things to do during the festival is to visit the towering pandals.

A Durga Puja pandal lit up brightly
A Durga Puja pandal lit up brightly

The décor and unique theme set each pandal apart from one another. Pandal hopping is the highlight of Durga Puja. While the crowds are less in the day, it is suggested you visit them at night when they are lit up and display colorful illuminations. 

3. Traditional Bonedi Bari puja

A Bonedi Bari puja during the festival is performed by the aristocratic landowners residing in the city. The puja takes place in the families’ ancient yet private mansions. An area, mainly a courtyard, is dedicated to the puja where delicate chandeliers, sublime interior, and gorgeous decorations accompany the worship. 

Bonedi Bari puja performed during the Durga Puja festival
Bonedi Bari puja performed during the Durga Puja festival

The families conducting the puja have preserved Bonedi bari worship for centuries and continue to perform it traditionally. It is the women who lead Bonedi Bari during Durga Puja.

4. Relish on street food

Attending Durga Puja without tasting the street food of Kolkata? This is an impossible scenario! As the carnivalesque vibe continues during the festive season, it is hard not to indulge in popular street foods of the city. 

Puchkas in Kolkata
Puchkas in Kolkata

Delicious Kathi roll, steaming momos, and Kolkata-style Puchkas are always in demand during Durga Puja. Furthermore, traditional Bengali snacks and sweets are also lined up along with other delicacies.

5. Witness the Visarjan

Dashami or the last day of Durga Puja marks the end of the festivities. In the evening, the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in the water. You can watch the ritual taking place on any of the ghats along the river in Kolkata. The lively procession during the visarjan feature women donning red sindoor and accompanying Goddess Durga. 

A Durga Puja procession on the last day of the festival
A Durga Puja procession on the last day of the festival

The easiest way to enjoy Durga Puja in Kolkata is by taking up a private or public tour which can provide an overall experience of the celebration.

Durga Puja in 2021

Durga Puja will commence on 6th October 2021 and end on 15th October 2021. Here are the dates of the notable days during the festival:

  • Mahalaya – 6th October 2021
  • Maha Panchami – 10th October 2021
  • Maha Sashti – 11th October 2021
  • Maha Saptami – 12th October 2021
  • Maha Ashtami – 13th October 2021
  • Maha Navami – 14th October 2021
  • Vijaya Dashami – 15th October 2021

Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals that showcases the beautiful Bengali culture. It is also part of a huge celebration in India. The festival commemorates Goddess Durga and is a reminiscent of her epics.

 

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Wild Voyager Team

The blogging team at Wild Voyager. We are explorers at heart and we love to share our travel stories and destination knowledge with you, which often serve as an inspiration for the life changing journeys we curate. When you decide to embark on one such life changing journey, our travel experience designers at letstalk@wildvoyager.com will be happy to get you started.

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