Finally, the days we eagerly wait for, are here. Yes, the most auspicious socio-cultural festival of Bengal, Durga Puja, is just a week away. The 10-day long festival is not only known for the way it is celebrated but also how it brings a smile to millions of faces.
As the streets start to get decorated with lights and pandals, the air slowly fills up with joy. It is that time of the year when neither Kolkata nor its inhabitants sleep, when we neither keep track of the days nor the time, and when people dress up to their best and eat like there’s no tomorrow.
Durga Puja or popularly known as Sharadotsav is a festival for all. Although it is primarily a festival of Hindus, non-Hindus participate in it as one of their own. It breaks the conventional notions of religious ceremonies and brings together infinite numbers of people, irrespective of their caste, religion and sex.
With the city full of beaming faces, each of which narrates a different story and endless echoes of rhythmic dhak beats and laughter, it is an overwhelming experience altogether.
As Ma Durga prepares for her journey to the earth, Kolkata decks up like never before.
Although other cities may not celebrate Durga Puja as elaborately as Kolkata does, people out there switch on to their best traditional mode during these few days and rejoices in the spirit of the festival.
This year, the Puja begins on September 30 and continues until October 11.
Although it spans over a period of 10 days, the main Puja starts from the sixth day that is shasthi and runs until the immersion of the idols on the 10th day called dashami.
The nature of the festival is so enticing and intense that people around the world make it a point to visit Kolkata once in their lifetime during the Puja.
Besides Pandal hopping, binge eating and unlimited shopping, the sacred ceremonies and rituals those are performed by the priests and senior womenfolk in our society clad in six yards of elegance during Devipaksha, are incredibly profound.
Now, let us take a look at someof the best Pujas acrossthe city:
#1 Suruchi Sangha:
Suruchi Sangha happens to be the best Puja in one of the posh areas of the city. Located in New Alipore, this Puja receives numerous awards for executing themes in the most perfect way.
It is famous for keeping themes based on the states of India, portraying their rich culture and heritage. By already covering states like Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Bengal, Manipur, Kerala, Goa, Orissa and even Bangladesh, they have pulled our hopes higher this year.
Well, it is only a matter of days when we get to witness what is in store for us this time. Hope they keep up the expectations of people who come from far off areas of the city to observe this Puja for once, no matter how crowded it is.
#2 Bagbazar Sarbojonin:
It is perhaps the oldest one in Kolkata.Famous for ekchala Durga Protima (idol), they believe in the conventional portrayal of the deity.
With an aim to hold on to the traditions of Durga Puja, Bagbazar Sarbojanin exclusively makes Durga Protima there. They are celebrating 98 years of its establishment with glory and pride this year.
This Puja is not only famous for its grandeur but also for the exhibition that is conducted in that ground throughout the week. With different rides and a countless number of stores, this place is a favourite of all.
Although they don’t adhere to themes, people never miss an opportunity to take a glance of the most authentic Puja of Bengal.
#3Ekdalia Evergreen Club:
Popularly known as the Barowari Durga Puja of South Kolkata, it is one of the best-themed Pujas in the city. Located in Ballygunge, Ekdalia Evergreen is not only famous for the unique themes it comes up with every year, but also how it covers the entire area with fantastic lighting.
The theme for this year’s Puja is Meenakshi Temple in the city of Madurai (Tamil Nadu). The main attraction of this Puja is the idol of Maa Durga, which is made exactly like the one written in Chandimangal and the incredible artwork around the walls of the pandal. Be there to catch a glimpse amid the maddening crowd.
#4 Kumartuli Park:
It’s the place where it all begins. For people new to Kolkata, they must know that the idols of Goddess Durga and her family are exclusively made here.
Home to thousands of artisans and craftsmen, it has an aura of a different kind. Many call this Puja as the best thematic Puja of Kolkata, and those who have visited recall their experiences of getting awestruck upon entering the pandal.
The excellent artwork and modern form of Durga take the crowd to a parallel universe.
Last year, it was based on Nepal earthquake, which quickly drew acclamation from all over the country. We are hoping that they come up with a theme as unlikely as every year.
#5 Sreebhumi Sporting Club :
Sreebhumi Sporting Club organises a Puja where traditions meet glamour. The main attraction of the Puja is the way Maa Durga is adorned with jewellery. It rose to prominence in 2014 after they decorated the idol with diamonds worth Rs 10 crore.
Perhaps, this was the first one to come up with such a concept. With exquisite chandeliers and gorgeous lighting, the Pandal is one of a kind. This year, they are replicating Jagannatha Temple in Puri and decorating the goddess with jewellery sponsored by Senco Gold.Located in north Kolkata, near Lake Town, Sreebhumi is one of those Pujas which attract people since the very day of its inauguration.
In an attempt to catch a glimpse of the idol, Pandal and illumination, people from distant lands visit this place. So, no matter how congested it may sound, this place calls for a visit.
#6 Babubagan Club:
With a history of organising Puja for nearly four decades, they stand out because of the exceptional decor and psychedelic lighting.
Focusing equally on the idol as well as the theme, Babubagan comes up with the most innovative styles of Pandals to keep up with its status of the most high profile Durga Puja of the town. This year they are working on Bengal’s Bratachari as their theme.
Located in south Kolkata (Dhakuria), this Puja is thronged by countless numbers of people from various parts of the city. So, put this on your list if you don’t want to miss the delicate craftsmanship and artistic decorations.
#7 FD Block, Salt Lake:
This is the best Puja in Salt Lake area. Many of you may not have heard about it, but every year this club sets an example with its brilliant architecture and extraordinary themes.
The theme for this year’s Puja is gadgets and their overarching influence on our lives. The committee invited Olympian and gymnast Dipa Karmakar to inaugurate their Puja and felicitated her at the FD ground. It calls for a shot, especially with the exciting rides and mouthwatering food stalls.
#8 Kashi Bose Lane Durga Puja:
Another one of the North Kolkata Pujas which captivates us with its eye-opening themes. This year the club is working on the issue of industrialisation on the one hand and the removal of green reserves on the other.
The theme depicts that although afforestation should be given priority, we cannot deny the progress of our country that happens because of industrialisation.
The entire space has been divided into two parts: the outer part consists of iron-made structures depicting industrialisation, and the inner portion of the pandal is full of greenery.
They are out and out trying to promote a space where there would be a balance of both. Located near Hedua (Maniktala), this place wins awards for working on glaring social issues and attracts a maddening crowd. Make sure you are there to behold this rare combination of themes.
#9 Naktala Udayan Sangha
Having won an endless number of awards and a huge amount of appreciation, Naktala Udayan Sangha is one of a kind. With so many Pujas around Behala, this one surely beats the rest with its abstract themes and nearly perfect execution of those. Some of the themes they have previously worked on include “Biswa Bhora Pran,” “Satyata,” “Ma” and “Antashar” among several others. Although Behala is known for potholes and traffic, this puja pandal deserves a visit.
#10 Mohammad Ali Park:
Last but definitely not the least; Mohammad Ali Park is renowned for the magnificent architecture of their pandals.
They often develop themes based on various monuments across the world and social issues. Located in the heart of Kolkata (College Street), the architectural embellishment of the Pandal is a treat to the eyes. This is one of the “must-see pandals” for its splendid decorations, artwork, and lighting.