By Sanghita Dey, Staff Writer
India, a land of festivals, celebrates every festival with huge zeal and enthusiasm. The month of October through December is the festive season, starting with Durga Puja, Diwali, Christmas and ending with New Year.
India is celebrating Durga Puja (Durga worship) now. Due to high cultural diversity, different parts of the country celebrate the festival in different way. Northeast and East India call the festival Durga Puja. North, Northwest and West India call the nine day of the festival Navaratri, and others celebrate the tenth day as Dushera. The name and the way of celebration may differ, but the core values are the same. Durga Puja is the worship of the mother goddess. It symbolizes the power of women in bringing prosperity to the society and the triumph of good over evil. Goddess Durga is depicted as a warrior woman with eight hands carrying weapons of different kinds assuming mudras, (symbolic hand gestures) that represent her teachings.
Durga Puja is most enthusiastically celebrated by Bengali communities. Kolkata, is the epicenter of the celebration. West Bengal’s Durga Puja industry is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 35 percent and has touched Rs.400 billion in 2015. In Kolkata and its suburbs more than 2500 pandals (temporary fabricated structures) are set up, all clamoring for the admiration and praise of the populace. The city is adorned with lights and the vibrant nightlife is the most exciting things to experience during the Puja. Every night is one mad carnival where thousands of people go ‘pandal-hopping’ with their friends and family. This year, Kolkata is seeing unique pandals and lightings.
The Buro Shiv Tala Association, Kolkata has made a structure with earthen pots. Boro Bazaar, Kolkata has used bamboo strips for the interior decoration of its pandal. This year, Kolkata’s Deshapriya Park Puja Committee built the world’s tallest Durga idol (80 feet) out of glass fibre worth Rs. 50 million. The organizers have written to the Guinness Book of World Records for listing it as the world’s tallest Durga idol.
On the day of Dashami (10th day of the festival) the most highlighted part is the “Debi Boron” and “Sindoor Khela-smearing of vermilion” just before the immersion of the idol. On this auspicious day, the married ladies offer sweets and sindoor (vermilion powder, usually applied as a dot or a mark on the forehead) to the Goddess Durga as part of a traditional ritual. It is believed that ‘sindoor khela’ dates back about 400 years and the underlying thought is to pray for a long and happy married life. But today, ‘Sindoor Khela’ is more about a tradition to bring all women together and celebrate the festival. It is the most exciting part of the festival for all Bengali women.
Durga Puja is like Christmas for Bengalis. And if you really want to get the essence of Kolkata – the City of Joy, explore Kolkata during Durga Puja.