Durga Pujo - Subho Bijoya - Saptami , Ashtami , Navami , Vijayadasami - 8th Oct - 11th Oct , City of Joy - Culture connects the World .......India , France , Italy , Argentina , Belgium , US 

 "Culture connects the world"

 

The days when you have no idea what's happening in the world , the days when you are in a mood which is one of the most positive high you can ever experience or I should say -  during this time the whole city is under a spiritual high which just increases with time , all the people you meet , greet are in a mood of celebration and this rush is with you for over a week - the whole city of Joy "Kolkata" is decorated like a bride and why not because it's the home coming of  "Goddess Durga"  for whom the whole celebration is happening. The festival is called "Durga Puja" or "Worship of Durga" - which marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura . 

Durga, in Sanskrit means "She who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach." Goddess Durga is a form of Shakti(power) worshiped for her gracious as well as terrifying aspect. Mother of the Universe, she represents the infinite power of the universe and is a symbol of a female dynamism. The manifestation of Goddess Durga is said to emerge from her formless essence and the two are inseparable.

 

During the festival time every single Hindu family is in it's most jovial mood  , shopping for new clothes , decorating the house , buying sweets & gifts for relatives , celebrating the festival in full joy , cooking different bengali cuisines each day , meeting relatives , people from different parts of India come to experience and celebrate this festival , they go pandal hopping to see various depictions of Goddess Durga portraying different themes - a theme showcasing the win of Good over Evil because according to the Hindu Mythology, Goddess Durga emerged from the collective energy of all Gods as an embodiment of Shakti or divine feminine power, to destroy demon Mahishasura; who was blessed to not be defeated by any man or god.This powerful form of Mother Goddess is highly revered in Kolkata which is why her return is celebrated with much grandeur and ceremonies.

 

Everyday from morning to night for 4 days starting from Saptami which is 7th day of 10 day festival till the last day Dashmi you have something to celebrate , children are like free birds who at one point is learning the rituals of festival and what value this festival holds, they are taught the traditions so that they can pass it to future generations like their elders did and on the other hand they are in the most freedomistic mood too where they have the freedom to wish anything as it's Durga Puja - Every single Hindu across South Asia is waiting for this fesival and have been planning and saving for a long time. It's a grand celebration.

The festival starts with Mahalaya - that's the day when Goddess Durga is invited on Earth ,  rituals are performed and it marks Goddess Durga has arrived.

On the 1st day of Durga Puja Goddess is welcomed home and in big pandals made all over the city - the bringing of Goddess Durga to home happens in a very grandeur way , the idol is placed on a Doli a huge procession happens and welcomed home in full glory. Most of the idols are made in the very famous Kumartuli or potter’s locality is a famous place in North Kolkata where majority of the idols are made.

After homecoming Goddess Durga is dressed in red sari - traditional dress of Indian women and lot of other items like jewellery , nose rings and what not , different ritual prayers and pujas are carried out on daily basis , people flock to different pandals and houses of local rich people who have open their doors to local people who can come and witness the celebration of "Durga Puja" with them to experience the various beautiful idols made and can offer their prayers to Goddess Durga and take back her blessings. 

Age old traditions are still very much alive in the city of joy - "Kolkata" , the whole city is in a festive mood , everyone wears new clothes for morning , afternoon & evening , food & sweets which has been major part of Kolkata and the city itself known as "Paradise for Foodie" - all major streets have food stalls running throughout whole day and night atleast for last 4 days of festival.

If days are shiny and beautiful then nights are vibrant , crowdy and more beautiful because this the time when the whole city is lit up with lights , all men and women are beautifully dressed and out on the streets , all pandals are lit up with the lightening effects , all major streets are filled with people roaming around with family & friends , after 12 pm - the whole city gets transformed into a paradise , cars and buses are stopped in major areas so that people can walk freely , weather is cool ,  all people coming out with families to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere , all food stalls are filled with people - every single person is in its best mood . A night walk tour is must as well during the last 4 main days of this great festival to experience all of this.

It's an experience for some but for some it's the biggest and by far the most important festival specially for Hindus of South Asia.What surprises me the most is the equality among people in celebrating this festival - doesn't matter you have less money or more , doesn't matter you come from a big or small family but the celebration would be done in same style all across , every single person is celebrating.The faith in Goddess is so much that people stand in hour long queues outside pandals to have a glimpse of "Goddess Durga Idol" and can offer their prayers and take blessings and you will see senior citizens are in huge number among the crowds - no doubt the culture is still very much alive.

Coming to Kolkata and experiencing Durga Puja was a dream but after learning how deeply rooted this festival is and the great significance this festival holds for hindus , the faith of people in "Goddess Durga" has connected me more to this culture and people from this part of the world. Being part of this festival is a blessing in itself.

Culture connects the world - A group of people coming from different corners of world - India , France , Italy , USA , Argentina all getting together in the very beautiful city of Joy - "Kolkata" to explore the beautiful pandals - depicting different themes showcasing win of Good over evil and as well the very beautiful idol of Goddess Durga , everyday starting from Saptami we visited different pandals for different pujas and understanding how much effort and time is put in creating such massive structures - which in turn shows what value this festival holds for people , no matter for what reason but when you are in Kolkata and specially during puja time you cannot miss the different Bengali cuisines - our friend Neela had it all planned and took us to some of the great restaurants of Kolkata  , another great experience was being part of home pujas - where you celebrate the puja with the families , you see different pujas and how the whole tradition is carried out. 

The most special ones were the Sandhi Puja which is performed at the junction of Ashtami & Navami and Kumari Pujain in which a girl is symbolised as "Goddess Durga " and prayed like one.

 

A festival so deeply rooted and in that you mix different cultures - what more do you want. The days just flew , it is so true good times just come and go so we should live them the fullest so that the memory stays with us for a lifetime. We all were lucky that we had some musicians with us in the group and a day before Dashmi we had a little get together to enjoy the evening at Amitav and Chiara's house where Max,Rohan and Emmanuel kept the night rolling with some great music performances , while Roshmi,Simone and others were equally great at giving some great singing performances , some tried to entertain the people with some other stand up acts - we danced our way through the night and good times always fly fast.Night came to an end - Chiara and Amitav were perfect host who made sure everybody leaves with a smile.We all were tired but still we had good lot of energy left for the final day.

 

One has to go so that they can come back again . Last few days went like a flash -but today is the day when Goddess Durga leaves.

The last day or the 10th day - more commonly called as Dashmi  is the day when  Goddess Durga leaves - She is worshipped and given a lot of things for her journey. This day is also known as Vijayadashmi - it is believed that on this day, Goddess Durga gained victory over the Demon and thus restored the balance on the earth.

Women, especially married woman initiate the procession by first applying red sindoor or vermillion powder on the Goddess and then to each other. It is said to be a symbol of marriage and fertility. All the women on this day are dressed in beautiful sarees and play with sindoor with each other and also participate in different rituals on this great day.

 

Highly enthusiastic devotees gather in large numbers to join the procession that carries the Goddess to the ghats to be immersed in water more commonly known as Visarjan. Goddess Durga is kept in Doli on which she is taken to the ghat where she would be immersed in water.

Babu Ghat is one of the popular places for immersion located near Eden Garden.

After 4 pm people from all corners from Kolkata start making their way to Babu ghat for immersion of "Goddess Durga" as she has to leave - people have gathered in huge numbers to see this procession , photographers all lined up for that perfect shot , devotees praying and taking blessings from Mother Durga one last time , workers carrying heavy idols from trucks to the ghats making sure every rituals is carried in proper manner , trucks just pouring in from all corners of city for immersion of Goddess.

A neelkantha bird clay model is released in water before immersion as a ritual now but in earlier times - a real neelkanth used to be released later discontinued following a government ban. The goddess takes seven rounds before she leaves for immersion and after that sweets are served. 

Last 4 days have been memorable and no doubt when you travel to learn , experience different culture and meet new people you always come back with something valuable which stays with you for the rest of your life , i guess that's one of the most beautiful parts of travel.

It was time for us to also to say goodbye to each other.To all the beautiful people I met during this travel I can't thank you more , it was indeed very special 4 days of my stay in Kolkata.

 

Above all most importantly this tour would not have been possible without Neela Majumdar - she was the one who got us all together and no doubt "Twin Brothers" behind the whole Durga Puja Pandal hop tour , so well organised and guiding all of us through the very beautiful street's of Kolkata and last but not the least everyone - Max from USA , Emmanuel , Simon , Maghosa , Olivier from France , Vicenza from Italy , Pedro and Claudia from Argentina , Amy & Jeff  from UK , Peter from Belgium , Chiara from Ireland , Amitav from USA , Arshid from Kashmir, Kavita , Rohan , Neela , her mother & sister , Sourav & his brother , Roshmi , Monami all from Kolkata , Astha from Delhi , twin brothers from Kolkata. 

Subho Bijoya - A very beautiful journey to all of you and for safe travels for the beautiful road ahead.

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© 2014 by Naman Jain Copyright.