Decked up in their best, West Bengal residents plunged into festivities and merriment on Monday marking the first day of the Durga Puja - the biggest festival in this part of the world. Chants of “Jai Durga” and “Bolo Durga Mai Ki Jai” reverberated across the state as the five-day festival got off to an electrifying start.
In Kolkata, there are around 2,470 community pujas and 5,000 family pujas. Each year, organisers come up with innovative themes and try to better their previous attempts. It now embraces those on the margins, and has truly become "glocal" - with both local and global elements - but at the same time the umbilical cord with heritage remains intact.
Making special this year's puja, the transgender community is observing its own version. The transgender rights activist group Pratyay Gender Trust in collaboration with a city community puja organisation, has modelled their idol on the "Ardhanarishwar" or the composite androgynous form of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati.
The city's Kashi Bose Lane Puja Committee has explored Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet project - "Beti Bachao" - as their theme this year. Through floral motifs and porcelain figure of a newborn girl child sleeping on a lotus, the organisers have attempted to start a dialogue against female foeticide.
The colourful marquee at Mohammad Ali Park in central Kolkata has showcased an African safari this year.
But the mini-stampede at Deshapriya Park in south Kolkata, which boasted of designing the "largest Durga idol in the world", on Sunday night, cast a shadow over the city's festive spirit.
Hundreds of devotees and pandal-hoppers were disappointed with the marquee being indefinitely shut following Kolkata Police orders. The city police filed a case against the organisers for violating rules and regulations.
The puja is usually a five-day event with Sasthi, and the subsequent four days - Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami - translating into frenzied pandal-hopping (visiting marquees) in new clothes, meeting friends and family and stuffing oneself to the brim with traditional delicacies.
This year, the festival will span four days as Navami and Dashami fall on the same day, October 22. Kolkata Police have set October 22 and October 25 as the days for Durga idol immersion.
From introducing a mobile application to installing CCTV cameras at strategic locations, putting up checkpoints and deploying sufficient number of male and female personnel, police have made elaborate security arrangements to ensure a peaceful Durga Puja. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wished people on Sasthi via a Facebook post.Sasthi - the sixth day of the lunar calendar - also marked the beginning of the puja rituals.
Kalparamvo (the beginning of the Pujas), Bodhan (the consecration of Ma Durga's idol), Amantran (inviting the goddess) and Adhivas (sanctifying the stay of the goddess on the exact spot where the puja is being held) - were performed in community puja marquees and households where the deity is being worshipped with zeal.