Women power have been celebrated throughout Indian history. India needs women empowerment. This created a lot of controversy when Arnab Goswami interviewed Rahul Gandhi. Trolled everywhere in Facebook and Twitter. But when it comes to celebrating the true power of women what clicks first is Calcutta. Bengalis celebrate the Durga Puja to worship Devi Durga for her victory over the devil i.e. the Mahishasura. The main motto of the celebration is to celebrate the triumph of Devi Durga, the true triumph of the women spirit.From the fighting skills of Rani Laxmibai to the spirit of Jodhabai in the Mughal era, women spirit takes it eternal place. When it comes to the mythological part Devi Durga or commonly regarded as Durga mata takes the place. In Hinduism, Mother Durga represents the embodiment of shakti, the divine feminine force which is the power of all creation. It is known that Durga emerged from the collective energies of all of the gods mainly Shiva (her husband), Vishnu and Brahma to slay the demon whose atrocities were beyond toleration in the God’s kingdom and hence was slain. Devi Durga emerges holding 10 different weapons in her 10 hands. She is thus the compassionate savior of all of the gods and the universe. Durga Puja is celebrated for a span of 10 days the first day being called Mahalaya and Navratra (meaning in sanksrit ‘the ninth day’) being the penultimate and Dashera being the last day of the festival. Dushera is pretty famous in northern parts of India.
The sixth to the tenth day is celebrated with charm and piousness in West Bengal. Kolkata, Asansol, Burdwan, Durgapur and Siliguri, these cities being the centre of attraction. On the tenth day the clay idol is immersed in the rivers or ponds, mainly a water body whichever is nearby.
The preparation for this festival starts 5 to 6 months prior the festival begins. The clay idol is prepared in scattered places across Kolkata the prime being the Kumortuli area alongside the River Hooghly. It is the residing place for the best idol makers in the city, the Pauls being the recognized persons. Durga idols are made out of clay 5-6 feet in height and some even higher depending upon the order they get. Not only Durga but all the idols worshipped in Kolkata are made there including Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Maa Kali. The idol makers of Kumortuli are handsomely paid for their work. The prepared clay idols are then painted with sprays to make it look attractive. Jewellery is embodied upon them and sarees prepared out of jute or simple silk is clad onto the idols. This wholesome appearance of the idol with a saree and proper jewellery gives the appearance of Ma or simply Mother which people can easily relate to. All these are done in Kumortuli itself. The major credit to the charm of the festival, which attracts lots of visitors goes to these idol makers and the craftsmen out there who stays most of the year away from the limelight.
The Dhaak is played in most of the local puja pandals. The Dhaak players commonly called the ‘Dhakees’ in Bengal come to Kolkata from all around the state and neighboring states of Bihar and Odisha to get employed for these 5-6 days and earn some living out of the ordinary. Again hard luck for them, some do not get a contract at all. They in turn return back to their homes helplessly.
In Calcutta (now Kolkata) and whole of West Bengal this festival is celebrated with much glory and oomph. The City of Joy comes to life during this time of the year. The particular trend is that the localities and puja committee members choose a theme and decorate the pandal accordingly. There are numerous sponsors and the committee members do their best marketing possible to grab a sponsorship for their puja and hence bag some awards and brag about it. Different organizations like Asian Paints, Dulux Paints, The Telegraph, times of India, State Bank of India, Berger Paints, etc. go for awarding the best puja according to their judgments. So its basically a festival with a massive scale competition, the competition worth diving for.
Kolkata mostly regarded as a slow city being a metropolitan city of India comes to life at this point of the year. The festival particularly makes the people go out to the streets to enjoy the charm and the delightfulness of the festival. Banks, government institutions, schools and colleges remain closed for these days. Pandal hopping is very common. Youths to old people and even the middle aged, every age group is found right on the streets or the community center where the idol is being worshipped. The streets comes back to life with lights and creative LED displays. Dining out is very common and mostly for all these 6 days and lunch becomes the mandatory part. College goers and school children chalk out their special plans to make these days more happening. Like the Beach festival in Rio, the Mardi Grass of New Orleans and the Durga Puja of Kolkata, these can be easily compared on the same scale. If you’re missing out this event of the year then you’re missing a big chunk of it. Priority goes to the reunion of old friends, family members getting together and social gatherings, even if you have no contact in the city, you’ll never feel alone or get bored. That’s the charm of the festival. The special and most essential part of the festival is that it is thoroughly enjoyed by all the religions and no bar on any particular region.
Well its time I talk about the foods available. Typical Bengali people indulge in all the sweets and savories of which Kolkata is famous in India. A proper Bengali dish includes rice, a starter, some veg curry, a fish curry (undoubtedly), chicken items, mutton curry, some curd and rasgullas. Yeah that’s what you have to eat during this time of the year when there is a family get together thing and you’ve come back to your home after a long time since you are away from the city because of your job. I had to go through this torture but worth fully. Restaurants and pubs are open till late real late night. The special attraction of the city has always been rolls, like all types of rolls. Egg roll, chicken roll, paneer roll, chcicken egg paneer roll and the list continues. Finding large chunk of consumers alongside the street roll stalls is a very common view. Restaurants are always crowded and prior reservation to get into the renowned ones is mandatory. The stereotype thing of no alcohol and no smoking during godly festivals is considered hilarious here during this time. Lounges and bars and local smoker pubs are always crowded. People fly in from distant parts just to enjoy and get the thrill.
Bengali people not staying in India or in other metro cities of India form their communities just to organize this Durga Puja. It has an overwhelming fame among the Bengali speaking community. Considering the Indian cities Delhi, Mumbai, Pune has some notably good Durga Puja committees. Their idols and pandal decoration is worth a visit. Internationally London, San Francisco, New York, Adelaide, Melbourne and Bristol has organized Durga Puja. It has reached international level in the last decade. So being a Bengali and proud of my ethnicity I truly admire the efforts we put in just for this festival and it would be great to have its fame spread globally. I better keep my fingers crossed for that. Bengali people are soft hearted and keep themselves out of trouble and dirty politics most of the time. Citing this as an example visit Kolkata during Durga Puja and enjoy the awesomeness of the festival and the city. I say again that you will never feel alone and the trip during this festival will be in your memory book for a long time.