If you are planning to visit to Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) this October, be prepared to indulge in days of festivities, food and colours. From 19th to 23rd October, the whole city would be celebrating Durga Puja.
This Hindu festival marks the victory of good over evil by worshipping Goddess Durga, a symbol of power and womanhood in India. Ideally, you should book your flights well in advance as there is a scramble for air tickets during this holiday season. Here are 5 things you should do, during the festival.
If you come around a week before the Puja, you will be able to see the idol-makers in Kumartuli, put finishing touches to the idols of Goddess Durga. The precision and the craftsmanship that is involved during the process would leave you mesmerised. Also, if you are travelling alone, and do not have a local contact, the best way to enjoy the festival is to enrol yourself with tour-groups such as the ones organised by West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation and Let’s meet Up Tours. The tour-groups have a well planned itinerary and all you have to do is tag along with them. It is also a great way to know more about the culture and traditions in a better manner.
The main highlight of the 4-day celebrations is visiting beautifully decorated display tents known as pandals, where the idols of Goddess Durga are placed. The reason for visiting various pandals is that every pandal is created with a unique theme and there are competitions to judge the best pandal, the best decoration, lightings, dance and other cultural programmes that are held on the occasion. One of the traditional cultural highlights is the “Dhunuchi Naach”, where youngsters dance in traditional attire while holding an earthen pot of embers.
Kolkata is famous throughout the country for its delicious cuisine. Durga Puja is the perfect time to sample the delicious delicacies from Bengal. You will find a wide variety of delicious food during the festival, on the streets, in the restaurants and near the pandals. After pandal hopping for some time, eating becomes a necessity. Delicious food is served in pandals, known as bhog (offerings to the God) that generally consist of a delicious savoury and spicy vegetable curry, a fritter, mishti (sweetmeat), chutney and papad (Papadums). If you want something light and spicy (if you like adventure) go for the phuchka (crispy flour balls, filled with spicy water, mashed potatoes and chutney). Apart from these, you can also go to any of the authentic Bengali restaurants to have delicacies like biryani, chicken chaap, kabiraji cutlets, kathi rolls, and many other mouth-watering dishes.
Immersion of Durga Idols
On the last day (known as Dashami or Vijayadashami), the festival commences with married women putting red sindoor (vermillion) on Goddess Durga and onto each other. Then the idol is taken to the nearest water body to be immersed. The most popular immersion point is in Babu Ghat (Near Eden Garden Stadium). With a wish and a call to the Goddess of power, the idol is immersed in the water. The whole ritual is an amazing spectacle and should be enjoyed on a boat.