Durga Puja in Kolkata is not just a celebration. It is an emotion. It is the eagerness of counting days to the beginning of Puja, the sheer peace of waking up at 4 AM to listen to Mahalaya, the symbolic smell of Kaash Phool, the refreshing smell of Dhunuchi – I can go on and on.
For a local, born and brought up in Kolkata, I have the magnificence of Durga Puja over the years. Preparations for the festival start 2-3 months in advance. Sculptors start making idols of Goddess Durga with her sons using Clay and Straw. Kumartuli, a part of the city known for its idol-making, is a sight to watch during this time.
To revisit some of these memories, I sat down with Tanayesh Talukdar, a travel blogger and photographer from Kolkata. A hearty, nostalgic conversation at a prominent Visarjan Ghat in New Town, Kolkata took us on a trip down the memory lane.
Reminiscing the Old Days – Our Earliest Memories
My earliest memories of the festival take me back to the streets being lit up with a million lights. Walking on lanes made me feel like being a part of a fairy tale. My favourite thing of the festival is undoubtedly the elaborate Bengali cuisine and t street food savoured in between pandal hopping.
“Holding hands of my parents and grandparents while navigating through the crowded alleys of Kolkata, feeling the excitement of watching the pandals is one of my fondest memories” recalls Tanayesh.
We would experience a set of mixed emotions on the final day, Vijayadashami. Everyone would be sad to see Maa Durga go while chanting her name, praying for a great year ahead with enthusiasm. “As a child, this day also reminded me that the fun is over and I have to get back to studies” Tanayesh chuckles.
The Evolution of Pujo Celebrations Over the Years
Many say that Kolkata is the city of Nostalgia. The architectural structure of the city will tell you stories of the past. However, the people here are not afraid of change. Whether it is shunning age-old patriarchal traditions or moving to eco-friendly ways of celebrations – the city knows how to embrace the past while preserving it for the future.
“One good thing that I have noticed is that people have started to embrace the traditional culture. People have started experience the enchanting experience of Boneribari and Rajbaris. It is good to see the revival of the culture” adds Tanayesh.
Pro-tips from the Locals
If you are visiting Calcutta to see the different pandals, step out either early morning or late night (Post 12AM). This way you will be able to visit multiple pandals rather than standing in long queues.
Tanayesh suggested attending the Sandhi Puja performed on Ashtami. “The speciality of this puja is that no matter where you are in the world, the puja starts at the exact minute. The emotions are at an high during this time. The puja is so powerful that I have even seen people cry!” adds Tanayesh.
Road trip Recommendations from Tanayesh
When I asked Tanayesh to recommend roadtrips in and around Calcutta he suggested these locations with much enthusiasm –
- Short one-day roadtrip – Immerse in the local culture of towns and villages located on the outskirts of Calcutta like – Chandannagar, Bandel, Barracpore etc.
- Long road trips – Explore the North East states like Sikkim. The local celebration is called “Dashain” and will enrich your experience. Other roadtrips include to villages and towns in Odisha.
For the entire interview, you can watch this Youtube Video –