The Goddess Durga is an embodiment of the cosmic Feminine Power. Goddess Durga is the amalgamation of the energies of all Gods. Therefore, the epitome of good over evil, truth over lies signifies her worship. As the Bengalis call it, Durga Puja, or Pujo, is one of the significant festivals for West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Assam, etc. People of Kolkata celebrate Durga Puja with the same enthusiasm irrespective of their religious beliefs.
Durga Puja is not anything less than a carnival for the people of Kolkata, in particular. Durga Puja is celebrated every year from the sixth day of Hindu Calendar month Ashwin.
It continues till the 10th day of Ashwin month. This year, it shall begin from the sixth day of Ashwin month of the Hindu Calendar, falling on 22nd October 2020. It shall conclude on the 10th day of Ashwin month of Hindu Calendar. It falls on 26th October 2020. With the pandemic still in full swing, there are apprehensions.
However, it would be worth seeing how this year, Durga Puja shall unwind. The pandemic shall not hinder people’s enthusiasm and vigour to celebrate Durga Puja since eternity now.
Significance of Durga Puja for Bengalis
Durga Puja is not just a festival for people all over India and, mainly, for the Bengalis. But it is equivalent to the revival of a newfound vigour and energy. Bengalis have always revered power and bravery. Therefore, Bengal’s worship of the Goddess of Power, Maa Durga, was first started. A sage named Medhas was the first one to start Durga puja. One can find the proof of this statement in his ashram situated in Durgapur.
Durga Puja commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga in her battle against the demon Mahisasura. As legends have it, Mahisasura had planned to set on a war with the Gods. But it was Goddess Durga who demolished all his ill intentions. Durga Puja also signifies the everlasting bond between the mother(Goddess Durga) with her children(her followers). It also commemorates Goddess Durga’s visit to her natives accompanied by her children.
How is Durga Puja celebrated?
Durga Puja is a unique blend of culture, traditions, food, shopping, and endless joy.
People of Kolkata celebrate Durga Puja with quite a lot of pomp and show. Bengalis invest all their faith in the magnanimity of Goddess. In ancient times people celebrated Durga Puja by worshipping nine different types of saplings that are nine forms of Goddess Durga. But in the modern era, pandal hopping, shopping, dancing, music such as Rabindra Sangeet, trying out different cuisines have become an integral part of Durga Puja.
Durga Puja commences with a traditional ritual called “Kola Bou,”.It begins with the giving of a banana tree dressed as a newlywed bride a bath. This ritual invocates the energy of Maa Durga into the idols.
Durga Puja today has become the perfect blend of adding a touch of contemporary culture. While at the same time preserving the traditions and rituals. There are many exciting and fun rituals. One of them being the “ShidhurKhela.”People of Kolkata celebrate it on the 10th day, Dashmi.In this ceremony, married women apply vermilion on each other, dressed in traditional dresses.
Durga Puja is not just limited to worship, traditions, and rituals. It also includes cultural programs like dance and music. People perform the famous Dhunuchi folk dance in the evening, which is a must-watch for tourists. A burning coconut husk and camphor put in an earthen pot are made use of. There are special competitions organized dedicated to this dance.
It is also one of the important festivals for socialization where everyone participates enthusiastically. People pay visits to their friends and family during this span. They exchange gifts and celebrate it with great enthusiasm. But this year it shall be quite different owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The idols immersed in water in large processions, where everyone chants “Aaschebochorabarhobe,” which translates to it’ll happen again the subsequent year.
The eyes of the idol of Goddess Durga painted on this auspicious day. The sculptor paints the eyes in a special ritual called ChokkhuDaan.
On the day of Mahalaya, the sculptor finally draws the eyes. The people of Kolkata send an invitation to the Goddess to transcend from heaven and grace the place with her reassuring presence.
Pandal Hopping At Night
Kolkata is famous for its exceptionally well decorated and magnificent pandals. The pandals have a unique theme and are known for their creativity. The government of West Bengal also promotes the Pandal culture. It does so by giving financial aid to the celebration. Last year the government donated Rs.25,000 to each community level Pandals.
The people of Kolkata spend a large amount of money on the beautifully carved Maa Durga idols. Sculptors carve the idols with great details and intricacy. You’d be able to witness an uncountable amount of Pandals not just in the city of Kolkata but also in the neighboring villages. You’d be in total awe to notice the exuberant decorations, the sparkling lights, the intricately carved Goddess idols, and the atmosphere of joy all around.
People roam about Kolkata’s entire length and breadth to witness the beautiful and unique-themed Pandals all over Kolkata. There are even special packages for pandal hopping in air-conditioned cars, which cover all the significant Pandals.
You’d be quite fascinated to know that this year, there shall also be a pandal resembling the notorious coronavirus. The people of Kolkata have set up this pandal situated in the South Dinajpur district. Although this year the celebrations aren’t going to be as splendid as the previous years.
Overnight Durga Puja
Durga Puja is celebrated overnight with great enthusiasm. The entire Kolkata takes part in the puja with great zeal for the whole of the night’s length. People forget all their worries by dancing to the tunes of DJs and Classical music like Rabindra Sangeet. The best time for Pandal hopping is late at night.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, however, it is speculated that the government might restrict the activities keeping in mind the COVID 19 guidelines. The government has restricted the gathering of a large group of people for more extended hours this year.
Shopping at the time of Durga puja
Shopping is one of the integral parts of Durga Puja in Kolkata. The markets are well-lit and jam-packed with clothes, sweets, and a wide variety of delicacies. Malls are an essential part of this shopping culture, as are the stalls and shops.
Amidst the pandemic, all safety precautions are being followed by the authorities to ensure social distancing. Malls shall run with 50 percent of their capacity. Even shops and local vendors are following safety measures to ensure social distancing in their shops.
Why is Kolkata a must to be on your bucket list at the time of Durga Puja?
Suppose you’re a traveller who would wish to see the rich Indian culture in the rawest yet elegant way. In that case, Durga Puja at Kolkata is the go-to place for you. I highly recommend that you visit Kolkata at least a week earlier.
It would help if you closely scrutinized Kolkata’s growing the hustle and bustle amidst the Durga puja celebrations. There is an atmosphere of a contagious glee all over Kolkata. By merely taking a stroll of the city, you’d get a vibe like nowhere else.
The grandest of celebrations are held in the city of Kolkata to celebrate Durga Puja. The idols in the Pandals are beautifully carved and will surely ignite the aesthetic values in you. You’d be able to appreciate the hard work and enthusiasm of the people of Kolkata even more. But only if you witness the preparations that lead to Durga Puja.
Most of the sculptors live in Kumartuli, which is Potter’s locality, a must to go on Mahalaya.
Mahalaya is usually around a week before the Durga Puja. Maa Durga descended to her maternal home on Earth from Mount Kailash on this day.
Even though the celebrations have been curtailed to some extent yet, Kolkata is Kolkata! It’d surely not fail to disappoint you. This year the number of people visiting the Pandals will be limited. Therefore, you must secure your seat in Pandals as early as possible.
Durga puja Amidst the Corona Virus pandemic
No visitor shall be allowed to enter a Pandal without a mask. Puja committees shall ensure social distancing and also the proper use of masks and hand sanitizers.
There shall be a separate entry and exit for the visitors to prevent overcrowding. This year people will be allowed to visit the pandal for the entire week to avoid overcrowding. The immersion processions will also have a limited number of people this year fearing the spread of the virus.
They would not be allowed to take a circuitous route this year. Cultural programs will also not be allowed in or anywhere near the Pandals.
All these norms will be strictly adhered to and would hopefully help contain the spread of the coronavirus. Police will be deployed on a large scale so that all standards and guidelines have strictly adhered to.