If there is a festival par excellence that never fails to enthuse us, year after year, not only in Bengal but in all parts of the world where Bengalis reside, it is the Durga Pujas. It is truly a time when people seem to lose all slumber, and walk out into the streets in all their festival gaiety. From the festive Pandals in various shapes, sizes and ” themes” to the bedecked idols, the Pujas hold something good for everyone. The crowd is a bit of a bother at times, but no one seems to mind it really, because they are all in the festive mood.
The build-up starts right from Mahalaya day, and continues well into the Puja days.
This year, we saw Puja “pandals” in themes as varied as boats (” Maa Durga” came in a boat this year) , giant conches, Egyptian pyramids, old houses, Mandirs and the like. And then there were the idols, ranging from the traditional “ek chaala” ( single structure) to the huge , expansive statues so typical of some of the Pujas. Each idol differed from the other; somewhere the ” Devi ” was cast in a benign, traditional way; somewhere else she was cast in a warrior-like ferocious pose. The shapes of the other idols also varied, from the Lion with its expansive mane to the Lion looking like a horse sans the huge mane! Durga Puja is a time for creativity by the artisans, who have a field day creating idols in all shapes and sizes!
My daughter has always been a Durga Puja freak, and she enjoyed it all thoroughly. One of her favourites was the pair of Lions at the entrance of Shovabazar Rajbaari, one of the traditional Pujas in North Kolkata. In the true tradition of innocent children, she loves listening to a fictitious story about how these lions came to be cast in stone.
We saw many of the prominent Pujas, both in South and North Kolkata, such as Ekadalia Evergreen, Singhi Park, Maddox Square, Mohammed Ali Park, College Square, Sovabazar Rajbaari, etc.
We did not venture out at night, because the crowds are prohibitive, despite the very attractive lightwork that bedecked the city.
And finally, after days and night of celebrations, on Bijoya Dasahami day , the Pujas come to an end, as ceremoniously as they were ushered in. Bijoya Dashami brings its own share of sadness, because the biggest festival of Bengal is coming to an end, but also leads to happy anticipation for the next year. As they say during the immersion procession, ” Aasche bochhor aabar hobe” ( it will take place again next year).