Fervour & fun returns with Durga Puja in Kolkata

City of Joy rediscovers cheer with its favourite deity

Eyetalk

October 15, 2021

/ By / Kolkata

As Durga Puja, the biggest festival of West Bengal, comes to a conclusion today, this year marked the return of customary revelry and gaiety after last year’s festivities were marred by Covid-19 pandemic.

For decades, indeed centuries, Durga Puja has dominated the calendar of a Bengali household, with vacations, family reunions and a myriad of social interactions lined up before and during these 10 days. Homes are renovated, gifts exchanged, and even more sweets made and ate than the normal days for the famous sweet tooth that Bengalis are recognised to be born with.

The biggest highlight of the Puja is of course pandal-hopping, where devotees go visiting one pandal after another. Pandals are creatively made and extravagantly-decorated sites where large idols of Durga are placed for public viewing and prayers. Over the years, the pandals of Kolkata have come to be known for their creativity as well as key social messages that they communicate. No wonder then that thousands of Bengalis dress up in their best clothes to visit as many of the thousands of pandals that the city normally has, as possible.

However, last year, due to the pandemic, the Durga Puja, like most other festivals in India went by almost unnoticed due to the prohibitions imposed in response to the pandemic. Hence, this year, it was almost like the devotees were celebrating with a vengeance, trying to make up for lost time.

Amongst the most famous pandals is Shreebhumi in Kolkata’s Lake Town area. This year the pandal depicted the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, attracting its usual fan base of tens of thousands. The highlight of the day is of course the evening Puja as the pandals are lit up with amazing lighting that adds a touch of extravagance to the mainly spiritual ambience of the pandals.

Though the pandals this year are numerous and devotees thronging to visit them in millions, the organisers have taken all measures to ensure that at least basic protocols like masks and social distancing within the pandals is followed. Also, the devotees have to remain content with a view of the idol of their favourite deity from a distance. Despite these restrictions, Bengal and especially the City of Joy has rediscovered its cheer and mojo and is already looking forward to welcoming Goddess Durga once again next year.

The highlight of the 10 and the ultimate day of Durga Puja in West Bengal is shiddoor khela, play of vermillion. This is mainly celebrated by married women who apply vermillion, one of the signs of a married Hindu woman, to each other while bidding adieu to their favourite goddess who returns to her symbolic home, as thousands of devotees accompany the idols for immersion.

Text and photos by Varsha Singh.

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