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Durga Pujo: Kolkata's Favorite Festival

Kolkata, India

by Esha Samajpati

Snapshots from Kolkata's Biggest Festival

Being the cultural hot-seat of India has never been easy. Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta was the capital of India under the British Raj until the year 1911. Known for its passion for cricket (thanks to the British) and rosogollas (a savory sweet), the city’s heritage is too rich and varied to be captured in a three-week holiday. So I did the next best thing. I thought of showcasing the city’s favorite festival, Durga Pujo.

Every year during autumn, Kolkatans gear up for five days of fun and festivity. Though Kolkata is home to various Indian communities, this festival finds special significance in the lives of Bengali Indians. Spirited, well-read and artistically inclined, the Bengalis have been setting trends since the colonial rule.

Rabindranath Tagore (the first Asian to win the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature) renounced his knighthood to protest against British atrocities in Amritsar and in spite of being imprisoned several times by British authorities, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose founded the Indian National Army in 1943. There are more instances of talent and valor in Kolkata’s past and present. I wish I had more time to explore my hometown and its history.

For now, those who want to visit the city may check out kolkatahub for details on tours and accommodations. In my opinion, the best time to plan a trip is between September and March.

Below are glimpses from Calcutta’s Durga Pujo, which kicks off with the construction of temporary temple-like structures called Pandals.

 

Durga Pujo Festival in Kolkata, India

These Pandals are constructed with bamboo, jute and wood on every street corner in Kolkata during the breezy months of Autumn. Photo by Dibyaroop Samajpati.

 

 

Durga Pujo Festival in Kolkata, India

A close-up of the Pandal structure. Surprisingly, the knots survive stormy weather during the festival and is an example of the most basic form of architecture. Photo by Dibyaroop Samajpati.

 

Durga Pujo Festival in Kolkata, India

A finished Pandal housing the idols of worship. The high-rises in the background lend a touch of reality to the scene. Photo by Dibyaroop Samajpati.

 

Durga Pujo Festival in Kolkata, India

Local artisans are called in to decorate the Pandals. Sponsorships are never a problem as corporate biggies like Pepsi and Asian Paints organize competitions that offer prize money substantial enough to fund next year’s festival. Photo by Indrani Samajpati.

Durga Pujo Festival in Kolkata, India

This Pandal looks like it's made of brass but the artists have produced the "metal effect" by using cloth, clay, coir [a kind of rope] and paint. Apart from aesthetics, the judges keep in mind the environment and safety regulations while choosing the "Best Pandal of the Year." Hence, the extensive use of environment-friendly materials in every effort. Photo by Indrani Samajpati.

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