Visits from Delhi: Kolkata during Durga Puja, Part 1

I am a Bengali, coming from the eastern part of India. For me, like all Bengalis, Durga Puja is the time when I feel one with all my counterparts across the world. I love Durga Puja, especially when I can come back to Kolkata to celebrate the festival in all its glory.

I have great memories of this festival that unites the Bengalis of the world, but this year I am out to create memories for my eleven year old daughter and explain the rituals and religions significance of Durga Puja to my child.

In Autumn, just before the winter sets in, we offer prayer to the Goddess Durga, for four days. We worship the Mother Shakti (or woman power), who we imagine comes visiting her Baper Bari (the maternal home, the earth) with her family of two sons (Ganesha, and Kartik) and two daughters (Laxmi and Saraswati). In the sixth day after the beginning on Devi Pakhsha (or the auspicious fortnight) of the month of Ashwin, according to the Hindu calendar the pujas begin, and so does the festivities.

The city of Kolkata gathers a totally different look at this time of the year, with roads lit up like Christmas, shops and retail outlets sporting the biggest collections, and people revelling in the festive gift shopping and planning the four days of holiday festivities.

People are seen on the streets enjoying the flavour of the days, hopping from one pandal (temporary temples erected to host the idols at every neighbourhood) to another, and spending their time in simply being together and making merry. At one of the crossings I have even seen musicians performing on elevated podiums, enthralling the crowd.

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