As Durga Puja draws closer, Bengalis and non-Bengali alike are coming together to set up beautiful pandals at various locations in Delhi. Since the lunar calendar determines the dates of Durga Puja, they vary from year to year in the Georgian calendar. This year, more than 400 puja are likely to take place in and around Delhi between September 26 and 30.
Durga Puja celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. During this festival, families rarely ever eat at home and spend most of their time in the pandals. Durga Puja comes to an end with the idols of Durga being paraded through the streets and then eventually being immersed in the closest water body.
For the duration of Durga Puja, the goddess is worshipped in her various forms. One of them is that of a virgin girl. This is the day of the Kumari Puja. On this day, young girls are worshipped as manifestations of the divine female energy. Navmi is the final day of Durga Puja. Celebrations draw to a close with a maha aarti. This year, Navmi is on September 29.
September 30 is the day when Durga idols will be immersed. Married women offer sindoor to the goddess and smear themselves with it. The red vermillion powder denotes the marital status of a woman and symbolizes (among other things) fertility.
For the pandal-hoppers in Delhi, here are some of the better known pujas that regularly feature in the top ten.
Among the top 10 Durga puja in Delhi-NCR, four take place in the mini-Bengal of Delhi: B-block, Co-operative ground Durga puja, Mela ground puja samity and the Kali Mandir complex. Turn up in your best traditional attire and enjoy the food and performances by various singers and bands from across the country. What's more? B-block and Pocket-52 have decided to go eco-friendly by not immersing their idols in Yamuna and instead in private pits and pools.
Where: Avoid rush hours and heavy traffic by travelling in the Metro. Get off at either Nehru Place station on violet line or Hauz Khas station on yellow line and you can reach there by walking for 4-5 minutes.
Matri Mandir – Safdarjung Enclave
In their 51st year, Matri Mandir Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti has decided to dedicate the theme of this year's celebration to 'Women empowerment/Nari Shakti'. "We are of the firm belief that empowering women is the key to building a safe and secure future for our children. We will be showcasing the success stories of legendary Indian women in various fields at our pandal this year. The famous quotes and thoughts of our great leaders quoted above have inspired us to showcase this," said Debashis Saha, General Secretary of the Durga Puja Samiti.
"As an eco-friendly gesture, we have decided to do away with plastic plates this year and have specially ordered cups and plates of betel nuts. We have a daily bhog during the puja that attracts around five thousand people every day," he further added.
The Maha Saptami i.e. September 27 evening would be dedicated to Pancham Da and on the 29th of September on Maha Navami day, an exclusive cultural show at Matri Mandir, Babul Supriyo, a famous name in Bollywood and Kolkata film industry will be performing live for the visitors.
Where: A little over two kilometre from the Green Park metro station, it shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes to reach this pandal that is located in the B-2 block of Safdarjung Enclave.
Kali Bari, Mayur Vihar
The Mayur Vihar Kali Bari pandal is arguably one of the most popular in the city. They have a permanent Mandapa which is decorated in creative style to bring an exclusive aura. The evening arati with the rhythmic sound of Dhaak makes it truly magical. If you are fond of Bhoga Prasad, you must reach here at mid noon when delicious Bhog is served to the devotees for all three days of the Pujo.
Where: Pocket-2 of Mayur Vihar Phase 1; about two kilometres away from the Mayur Vihar Phase 1 metro station.
Kashmere Gate Durga Puja
The puja celebration at Kashmere Gate has been happening since 1909. It is the oldest pandal in the city and is the perfect venue for those who fancy a more traditional celebration. For foodies, this place serves amazing biryani and mutton chaap (curry).
Where: Opposite Indraprastha College for Women in Civil Lines; civil lines Metro station is the closest to the venue.