Goddess in the City: Durga Puja in Kolkata

Sharodotsav (The Autumnal function) or Durgotsav (The Function of Goddess Durga) is the biggest annual celebration of culture, religion, faith and the symbol of woman power; Goddess Durga in Kolkata, India!

The familiar sounds of Dhak (a huge membranophone drum from India), the energy and passion of Dhunuchi nach (traditional folk dance of Bengal with effervescent smoke in front of the Goddess on the beats of Dhak), the mild yet intoxicating smell of Shiuli flowers (white colored blooms) and the swaying Kash touching the sky (a flower of Autumn season found in parts of West Bengal deeply associated with the festival of Durga Puja)), all give a familiar tug to every Bengali’s heart because they are all symbolic of the coming seasonal festivities of 5 days long Durga Puja!


Photo from Flickr

It is believed that during the 4 & half days of celebrations of Durga puja, Goddess Durga visits her Baper badi (Father’s home) and hence Bengalis all over the world rejoice with their friends and relatives. The last day of the celebrities is the day when the Goddess leaves for her Shvasur Badi (Husband’s home) with her children.

The myth and folklore of Durga Puja
The myth of Goddess Durga goes back in a time when the life of the Gods was totally disrupted and they were uprooted from their abode because of a demon with the face of a buffalo (known as Mahishasura). The Gods went and sought refuge from the Hindu holy trinity (Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva). The Goddess was born as a unified force of the radiant energies of the three Gods with 10 hands and riding a lion. She destroyed the demon and restored peace and lawfulness. The deity Durga is the symbol of woman power and all that is virtuous directed against the evil forces.

Celebration of Durga puja is associated with the folklore that Goddess Durga(born as Pārbati) is married to Lord Shiv and has four children Saraswati (the Goddess of learning and fine arts), Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth), Kaartik (General of the armies of the Gods), and Ganesha (the elephant God who makes all human ventures successful). The festival of Durga Puja is associated with the annual homecoming of Goddess with her four children to visit her parents on the first day of Puja and her returning to her husband’s home on the last day of the Puja.

Photographer: Rana Ganguly

5 days of tradition
Durga Puja is a four day affair which falls somewhere between September and October every year in the waxing Lunar phase of the moon.

Shasthee: It is the sixth day of the moon, when preparations for welcoming Durga start. In the evening, the Goddess is unveiled and rituals of ‘BODHON’ take place.

Saptami: Saptami is the first day of the Durga Puja when the rituals start. The day takes off with the predawn bathing and rituals with Banana plant (Kola Gach) which is symbolic of essence of a woman. The rituals on this day are associated with instilling sight and spirit into the clay idol of the Goddess.

Photographer: Rana Ganguly

Ashtami: This is the most important day of the Durga Puja. It is considered to be the peak of the rituals. This is the day when victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura is celebrated and all the manifestations of Woman power is invoked and worshipped.

Nabami: Nabami is marked with worshipping Lord Rama who prayed Goddess Durga.
This is the day of sacrifices as well. Animal sacrifice has been replaced with vegetable sacrifice of Chalkumro (a species of Pumpkin), cucumber, sugarcane and banana.

Sandhi Puja is carried out between the end of eighth day and the start of the ninth day and is ritualized with lighting 108 lamps (Diyas).

Dashmi: The last day of the Puja when with heavy hearts people bid farewell to the deity. The day starts with Debi Boron, a ritual in which married ladies worship the Goddess and her children with Betel leaves and sweets before bidding her farewell.

Photographer: Rana Ganguly

Sindur khela is another custom prevalent on Dashmi, where married ladies apply red colored vermilion to each other and greet each other with sweets.
In the evening with much fervor and gusto and heavy hearts, the Goddess is immersed in the river Ganges and earnestly prayed for to come back again the next year.

Clay idols
The preparations for Durga Puja start much before the festivities actually commence. Bengal has unmatched skills in making clay idols and breathe in life in the idols of the Goddess. The famous district of Kumartuli is known for its sculptors or clay artisans who design beautiful and life like effigies of Goddess Durga.

Photographer: Rana Ganguly


They specialize in creating straw frames, adding clay coatings, and painting the divine features with brilliant colors. Different workshops on Rabindra Sarani lane of Kolkata specialize in making different body parts.

Puja pandals

Photographer: Rana Ganguly

Durga Puja pandals are one of the major attractions of Durga Puja. Thousands of designers, craftsmen and skilled labor put in their hard work and great innovation, imagination and creativity to recreate pandals which are temporary works of art. It is a sight worth experiencing. The lavish pandals with complicated designs and intricate art work decorated with lights, flowers and almost every conceivable article like bamboo, terracotta, Aluminium vessels, and thermocol and so on.

The latest trend in making Puja pandals is that they are based on different themes is a hallmark of many community Pujas.

Photographer: Rana Ganguly

So, next time on a trip to India try visiting Kolkata during Durga Puja and experience for yourself the vibrance, energy, passion, joy and festivity of a city come alive under the shadow of Goddess Durga!

Author: Pooja S. Banerjee

A pharmacist by profession,Pooja has research experience in the field of herbal medicine and medicinal chemistry. She has also authored many International and National research and review papers in peer reviewed journals. Her passion for writing has made her foray into the world of medical writing. She writes travel blogs for creative satisfaction.

Comments

  1. Nice write up and good photos.

    Several years back, I was there in Kolkata and I saw the Durga Puja with my parents. Your blog brings back those memories. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Most of the Bollywood pictures having stories based on West Bengal do make it a point to show a part of the Durga Puja and its celebrations. Parineeta and Kahani are just two of them.
    This article has given highlighted some of the important factors of the Puja.

  3. I visit every day a few web sites and sites to read articles,
    but this blog offers feature based articles.

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  1. […] known as the “Dhunuchi” dance is a traditional dance performed by the Bengali men during the “Durga Puja” festival.Festivals in West Bengal Speaking of festivals, Bengal is called the land of thirteen […]

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