The pomp and grandeur with which the Durga Puja is celebrated in Kolkata is unparalleled. The sheer magnitude of celebrations is a testament to the traditional and cultural richness of the city.
Spanning across 10 days, Durga Puja is held to commemorate the divine power and the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishasura. Although Durga Puja is celebrated in October this time, the preparations have started months in advance. From building stunning themed pandals to shopping for clothes and gifts, the puja buzz is taking over one and all. Each of the 10 days is full of rituals and customs that have cultural significance.
However, things are a tad bit different this time around. With the Covid-19 pandemic still lingering, there is no doubt that a traditional Durga Puja celebration will require a great degree of precaution and responsibility. Practising social distancing even now is important not just for our own well-being, but also our duty to society. Simply by doing our own part and staying home, we can keep ourselves safe. So this year, we must improvise and adapt to make the most of our activities from day 1 to day 10 so that we can celebrate responsibly. Here are some activities that are a must during Durga Puja.
Artisans all over the city begin preparing the mesmerizing idols of Durga several months in advance, but they leave out the eyes. On Mahalaya the final touch, that is the eyes, are added and this process is called Chokku-Daan. This is done by the artists and is captured by photographers. No crowd is seen as such.
The highlight of Durga Puja is no doubt visiting the breathtaking and innovative pandals. People usually join the long, snaking lines and wait for their turn! However, masks and social distancing is essential in this case. Most localities have even adapted to drive-in pandals where the viewers can take their vehicles and admire the beauty of the pandals without getting out.
The Goddess is placed inside the pandals on the 6th day of the carnival, also known as Shasti. People dance to the beating of Dhak (drums) as the celebrations begin to heat up. While a dance of such sort tends to be in huge numbers, maintaining a ratio of 2-3 dancers with required measures is important.
One of the most auspicious rituals, people wake up early and put on ethnic clothes and visit nearby pandals to offer prayers. After prayers, people feast on the famous ‘bhog’ which is food blessed by the Goddess. Most areas in Kolkata have developed various slots with minimal crowd to maintain distance while giving pushpanjali. Additionally, masks are mandatory.
This is a sweet ritual on the eighth day where girls aged 7 to 9 dressed up as Goddesses and worshipped. This is done as they are believed to be the personification of purity and positivity. Kumari puja is seen all over the country during Puja as well as Navratri.
Food with family and friends
Aside from the rituals and customs, Durga Puja is the time to feast on special cuisines with your loved ones. Instead of worrying about cooking food at home, you may order delicious meals straight to your house from the Karma Kettle Tearoom and make your Pujas stress-free and yummy or choose to visit our outlet for lip-smacking food!
Bhog is the most traditional form of Bengali food. It is served for free to all those attending the puja. It is an auspicious part of the festival as it serves the community and at the same time is an offering to the Goddess. Typically, bhog is a vegetarian dish with the key component being ‘bhoger khichuri’. Some vegetables that are present in the bhog are- brinjal, cauliflower, potatoes and other types of mixed vegetables. Finally, to top off this delectable traditional meal, payesh or mishti doi, which are specials of Kolkata. In 2020, a lot of places offered bhog in the form of packets instead of the general community gathering. We hope to see the same this year as well.
As long as we’re on the subject of all those special things to do, what better way to have that long-awaited adda. While doing this, do avoid crowded areas and put your masks on.
Here are some of our must-tries, this Puja season.
Lebu Cha is not just tea. Lebu Cha is an emotion. It is the hours and hours of adda with friends. It is the early morning drink. It is the post-work drink. The energizing citrusy flavour is truly a tribute to the City of Joy! From College street to Nandan, you will get it anywhere. So we have created one for you.
The irresistible caramel aroma and the creamy finish of the Nolen Gur chai is a must-try this Puja. The sweetness of jaggery and dates will leave you wanting more. It’s the perfect drink to have when craving sugar.
After 9 days of festivities, it is time to bid goodbye to the Goddess. People sing and dance and revel as the idols are carried to the place of Visarjan. The idols are then immersed in the holy water of the Ganges river.
And with that comes to the end of this much-awaited and loved festival. Words cannot do justice to the depth of emotions attached to this beautiful celebration.