As far as I can remember, my first encounter with a full fledged Durga Pujo happened because of Ekta Kapoor, the daily soap queen. How? Well, because of Kasautii Zindagi Ki. A popular daily soap of the times when she actually redefined the Indian Television. The protagonist of the series, Anurag Basu played by Cezzane Khan was a bengali and thats when I got to see what actually is Durga Pujo and how it is celebrated. Believe it or not, but Ekta Kapoor is the reason why all the major festivals of India are celebrated with style. She has redefined Indian culture in many ways and celebrating festivals is definitely one of them. Though her style is too flamboyant but it gives a glimpse of everything associated with a festival.
I have always wanted to visit Kolkata during Durga Pujo days. It is the only major festival of Bengalis as far as I know. Something they look forward to each year and actually keep a count of the days left for the next Durga Pujo once the celebration is over. I couldn’t really get a chance till now but I am glad twitter happened to me and I follow some hardcore bengali people there. I read their tweets and see how excited they are about everything and how they celebrate these days with full enthusiasm and vigour. They shop like crazy and for each important day, they plan to wear a different attire, plan a different food menu and too many ceremonies and rituals are performed during the Durga Pujo days. Interesting and vibrant, like Bengalis are known for and it can be seen widely during Durga Pujo days.
Today, I got a chance to get closer to know what Durga Pujo is all about and experienced it. Though not in a full fledged way but I got to see what it is all about and how people celebrate it. This post is going to be about what I experienced. But before I begin any further, I would really like to thank Deepshikha ( @Absolute_Purple ) for taking me to the Chittranjan Park ( C R Park ) which is also known as the Mini Bengal of Delhi because of the Bengali population residing there since ages. The plan was made in no time and my other twitter friend Tarun ( @Forever_Tarun ) also joined in.
We reached C R Park at around 4 in the evening today and Deepshikha asked us to meet her at the Cooperative Pandaal in the B-Block. We hired an auto rickshaw from Nehru Place metro station and he dropped us at Mela Market in C R Park only, saying that it is the same place. Me and Tarun both had no clue about C R Park and got down at whatever place the auto rickshaw driver dropped us. We went inside and saw this majestic idol of Maa Durga in its full glory.
I was mesmerised. The place was swarming with Bengalis and the amazing aroma of food was filling my nose. I think there was some competition going on related to cooking. Bengali women cladded in cotton sarees with bengali prints were everywhere. They looked happy and cheerful. You can actually see the enthusiasm and how overwhelmed they were about the whole celebration. Everyone was greeting each other, meeting happily, indulged in food, praising the idol of Durga maa. The whole place had a majestic feel. I was awestruck after seeing everything.
After we got back to senses, we figured out that Deepshikha cannot be spotted anywhere. I asked Tarun to call her and ask where she is, she told us we are at the wrong pandal and gave us some ( wrong ) directions. Me and Tarun decided to walk down because she told us the Pandaal in which she is waiting for us was just at a walking distance. We left this pandaal and started walking in the direction Deepshikha told us after confirming it from some policemen. After walking for some 10 mins, I spotted another Pandal. I asked Tarun, lets just pay a visit here as well. Tarun, being a sport like always, got ready in no time and we entered in the second pandaal, which has the following idol of Durga Maa
Preparations for evening were in full swing here. People were making rangoli and the priest was gearing up for evening’s aarti. Again an awesome idol but with a relatively small pandaal, but it was nice. Nothing else was there to see so we got done with this pandaal in no time and began searching for the pandaal Deepshikha mentioned and started walking. Walked for another 10 mins, kept asking for directions which no one could tell, not even the local residents of the place, we spotted another Pandaal, which was closed. From there, we hired another auto rickshaw, after talking to Deepshikha over the phone and again got some wrong directions and landmarks from her. 😛
We finally landed up at the Kaali Mandir Pandaal at C R Park. The pandaal was buzzing with people and there were too many activities going on. The chief guest was being welcomed, some cooking competition was also on because the place was filled with highly orgasmic aroma of food, and people who had to perform there were all decked up in their attires. The Durga idol was covered but I spotted this little girl cladded up in a saree draped in bengali style. I asked her mother, if I can take a picture of her and she allowed me. Here it is.
After spending some 10-15 mins in this pandaal, we again called up Deepshikha to confirm whether we are at the right place and the answer was no. She again gave us some ( wrong ) directions and made us walk some more and we finally landed up at another pandaal which is known for its creative work and they actually win many prizes every year. They experiment with the setup, come up with new themes every year and Durga Maa’s idol every year as Deepshikha told us later. Yes, we did meet her. Keep reading to know how. Here is the pic from that pandaal.
The preparations here were also in full swing. As you can see in the picture, a girl along with a guy are making rangoli, people were fixing lights and sound and this pandaal was filled with aroma of food as well. My tummy started growling after the aroma filled my nostrils, but Deepshikha was nowhere to be spotted as usual. Tarun again called her and as usual got supplied with more directions by her. This time, some B-Block’s pandaal with a picture of Kareena Kapoor welcoming the people in the pandaal. We got out of this pandaal and started walking towards the mentioned directions. Asked the policemen about where is B-block’s pandaal and again got supplied with wrong directions. The above pandaal had two entrances, we got out of one and entered the same pandaal from a different gate, thanks to those policemen. Disappointed, we got out of it and again started walking in the direction given to us by Deepshikha and finally reached B-Block’s pandaal. We couldn’t spot Deepshikha here as well. I was too pissed off but I was excited to see Durga Maa’s idol there. So I asked Tarun, lets go inside first, see the idol and then she shall take Deepshikha’s case. We entered the pandaal and saw this really beautiful setup
P.S. Please do not get carried away by the smoke. This smoke is actually was hovering around the place because of pest control.
This was the best idol of Durga maa among all. I was totally floored by it. Kept staring it for some time. I felt so good. Some kind of positive energy was being radiated from every idol of Durga Maa which made me feel calmer, it was magical. Here also, preparations for evening were in full swing. People were running here and there. After getting back to my senses, asked Tarun to call Deepshikha, he called her up, told her where we were and this time she said, she is coming to this pandaal only. I asked Tarun to sit at the food stalls and we parked ourselves on the chairs. Deepshikha with Sukhdeep ( @S4Sukhdeep ) came after some time. Finally, we got to meet her. She told us, she is always confused with directions and as usual we made fun of her. She takes everything sportingly and thats a nice thing. Sukhdeep who came along with Deepshikha, is also a twitter person and a real nice fellow. He all got along really well and started chatting. Time flew like anything. We kept on talking about jobs, people, twitter, this and that jazz, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Durga Pujo, hopped from one topic to another. Some 1.5 hours we passed talking about various things. We also came to know that Deepshikha was at the pandaal which me and Tarun visited just before this one. That was like a total Facepalm situation. After some time, we could her some dhaak beats. Dhaak is acutally a dhol sort of thing which is played from one side with sticks. The rhythm was impeccable and the dhaak players ( Dhakis ) were high on energy. We entered the pandaal again and saw the idol and the dhaak players in their full glory.
We stood here for some 10-15 mins. Absorbed the music, the energy of the atmosphere. The sound of Dhaak is so therapeutic. Your foot starts tapping itself. They just played it in a constant rhythm, not much variation, but you still enjoy it. I was expecting some dhunuchi dance as well, but couldn’t get to see it. Deepshikha told me, that men and women perform it on Ashtami, Navami and Bijoyadashami. Today was Shoshti. The day when Durga Pujo actually begins.Also, the pandaal looked somewhat like this
After experiencing this, we ate some stuff and came out of this pandaal and started walking towards the previous one. On our way, we saw another small pandaal, which was more of a private pandaal by some family, but they welcomed everyone. The Durga Maa’s idol was relatively small, we didn’t really go inside but offered our prayers from outside only and I clicked a picture
We were offered some prasaad as well, puffed rice and sugar crytals mixed together. And then we started walking towards the pandaal and it was buzzing with people. Some real hot Bengali girls as well 😉 . Here is the picture
Here also, the lights were flashing, the Dhaak was being played. Everyone was submerged in the aura of Maa Durga and were happily clicking pictures with their loved ones, with the stage in the background. This whole pandaal was made up of bamboo with some hand painted bamboo sheets and stuff. Beautiful it was. After spending some good time here, we decided to head back home. It was getting late as well and I had to travel for some 2.5 hours to reach my place. An auto rickshaw ride, then a metro ride and then some driving and I was at home by 10:30.
Honestly saying, I was feeling extremely depressed since past few days. Spoke very less, met a very few people, was not doing anything constructive apart from reading. This was a nice rejuvenating change. I well good. Though I had to walk a lot, thanks to Deepshikha’s skills with directions, but I feel it was a blessing in disguise, otherwise I would not have got to see so many pandaals and experience what it like being among the Bengalis and experiencing something as extremely majestic as Durga Pujo, the way people celebrate it, the stories, the rituals.
Now the urge of being in Kolkata among a Bengali family during the next Durga Pujo is on its peak in my mind and heart. There is this guy Agnivo ( @Aagan86 ) on twitter. He has been live tweeting about Durga Pujo since last three years, if I remember correctly, and I so look forward to his tweets during Durga Pujo. He tweets about every ceremony, the anecdotes behind the rituals, the food prepared, the prasaad prepared, and every nick of information related to Pujo. This year sadly he couldn’t go home and I am really upset about it. He is one person with whom I would really love to experience the whole Durga Pujo days in Kolkata and at his home as well which is in Jalpaiguri.
India is definitely a land of unity in diversity. There was no shade of caste, colour, creed or religion that could be seen today. Everyone was absorbed in the prosperity and spirits of celebrating Durga Pujo. It was visible on each and every person’s face who was hopping from one pandaal to another. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I look forward to next Durga Pujo as well.
Signing off from this one.
Bolo Durga Maayi Ki Jai !!!!