The Durga Pujo or Durgotsava or Durga Puja is celebrated with immense joy and magnificence by the Bengali community in India. Though it’s a predominantly Bengali festival, everyone joins the celebration without any restrictions on religion, caste, creed or age. The Durga Puja is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil King Mahishasura. It is also celebrated to welcome the union of the Goddess with her sons, Ganesh & Kartikeya and husband, Lord Shiva.
Why is Durga Puja Celebrated?
According to historical scriptures, Mahishasura engulfed in the arrogance of his boon of invincibility, used to trouble all humans as well as Gods. To put an end to this evil, all gods created Goddess Durga with ten hands from clay and offered her each of their most powerful weapons. Goddess Durga, on her Lion (Simhavahini), defeated Mahishasura on the tenth day of the Bengali month Asvin. Hence, Durga Puja is rejoiced for ten days, from the day of creation of Goddess Durga (Panchami) to the day of slaying Mahishasura (Vijayadashami). It is also said that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga before going to war with Ravana.
Preparations and Grandeur of Durga Puja
Preparations for the festival start 2-3 months before the Durga Puja. Sculptors start making idols of Goddess Durga with her sons using Clay and Straw. Painting the eye of the Goddess (Chokkhudaan) is considered very auspicious, and it is done in the dark, alone by the sculptor. The whole arrangement is called Chala. The Chala is placed in huge decorated pavilions called the Pandals. Carpenters in the city construct these magnificent Pandals with bamboo and cloth. “Pandal-hopping” is a common practice, where people go to different Pandals to check out its grandeur and worship the goddess. People also join the celebrations at home. If you’re looking to experience pandal-hopping first hand in Kolkata, we recommend you book a cab so you can explore celebrations across the city.
Puja Bhog and New Dresses
Other specialities of Durga Puja include new dresses and mouth-watering delicious food varieties. One can witness the craftsmanship and weaving in the authentic Bengali silk and jute dresses that go for sale during Durga Puja. When it comes to food, Durga Puja is the best time of the year to taste authentic Bengali dishes. All through the six days of the festival, afternoon meal called puja bhog is served to everyone. The puja bhog is a pure vegetarian offering consisting of delicious dishes like Khichuri, Labdah, Beguni, Chutney, and Payesh or Mishti for dessert. Although most Bengalis refrain from consuming onions, non-vegetarian foods, wheat, grains and alcohol, during the last four days of Durga Pooja, you can still get the best seafood in town during these days. If you’re planning to go on a shopping spree in Kolkata, book a Savaari cab and explore the city.
Fish, Kathi Rolls, and Sweets
Stalls in the Pandals offer delightful fish delicacies like fish fry, fish chops, pabda, fish orly, chingri, Ilish Mach, Macher Jhal and more. One must try the chicken, mutton, fish and egg Kathi rolls of popular brands like Bijoli Grill and Dilli Haat in Kolkata. Vegetarian food lovers can relish the street foods like Kolkata chaat, puchkas, luchi, jhaal muri, Aloo Tikki, Mughlai Parantha and more. When in Kolkata, you cannot miss the mouth-watering Bengali sweets. You can binge on Malpoa, Mishti Doi, Payesh and Sandesh during Durga Puja celebrations.
Rituals and Practices during Durga Puja
It is an incredible sight to witness the evening aarti during the six days of celebrations. Some important rituals include the Ashtami Pushpanjali, Kumari Puja, Sindhur Khela and Finally Vijayadashami Visarjan. People pray with diyas, collars, flowers, loud music and fragrance on all days. The Dhunuchi dance is so mesmerising that you would not know when you became a part of it. On the tenth day of Vijayadashami, the idols are taken from the Pandals and immersed in the local rivers marking the end of the festivities.