What Christmas is to the world, the hundreds of Indian festivals are to India ! Not even one loses it significance because of the presence of so many others. Each one is celebrated with great pomp and show and one lifetime is not enough to know and see them all.
I am proud and blessed for being able to call Calcutta as my home. This city which was also the capital of India during the British rule, is rich in European architecture and few of the heritage buildings bring a sense of pride to us. Calcutta is beautiful, people are warm and if you can coincide your stay with the very popular ‘Durga Pujo’ festival than nothing like it.
Durga puja is a festival that signifies the victory of good over evil. It marks the battle of mighty Goddess Durga with the powerful buffalo-demon Mahishasura. According to Hindu mythology, Mahisa, a demon, was born out of a union between a demon and a buffalo, hence the name Mahisa (buffalo) Asura (demon). He wanted to be an invincible and immortal demon, hence he prayed and prayed for years until the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma, granted him a boon that no man can ever kill him. If he is to die, it will only be in the hands of a woman. Using his immortal powers, Mahisasura started harming gods and human beings. He created a havoc on Earth and heavens using his army of demons until Gods came together and created a divine lady, Durga, with ten arms, each of them carrying a weapon. She mounted on a lion and fought with Mahisasura by finally killing him with her sword.
It is once again this time of the year when the city of joy lives by its name. During this ten days festival beginning from Mahalaya, the city never sleeps. Each and every corner of the streets are beautifully illuminated and pandals which houses the idols of the deity are imaginatively decorated. Millions and millions of money is spent on conceptualisation, raw materials, idol, jewelries, lightings and designers etc to build each pandal. City enthusiasts hop on to every pandal in their vicinity and beyond. Traffic on the roads and crowded pandals only enhances the beauty of the festival.
Finally, after ten days of fun and frolic, the idols are paraded through Red Road before immersion. Its a beautiful sight and people get emotional when they see the goddess leaving for her abode on Mount Kailash. Calcutta is considered her home and its believed that she comes every year for ten days to her parents home and we Calcuttans welcome her by celebrating these ten days as Durga puja.
Fun facts :
- All these life size stunning structures are temporary.
- They are only made out of bamboos, rope, papier mache and thermocols.
- Farmers and artisans who build these structures have no formal training.
- Over 3000 pandals are built in the city of Kolkata alone.
- Though Durga puja is celebrated all over India, it is much different in Bengal. You must experience it to believe it.
Have you ever experienced Durga Puja in Calcutta or abroad ? I would love to hear your thoughts on this festival, please leave them as comments.