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Durga Puja In Kolkata- A Cultural Treasure Trove!

We all have heard of world-class carnivals around the globe. But does the world know of the iconic Durga Puja in the City of Joy, Kolkata?

The spirit of Durga Puja is the convergence of- emotion, devotion, culture, fun, togetherness, legacy, and creativity. 

Nothing else can compare to the festive spirit of Kolkata, a city that doesn’t sleep in the auspicious revelry. 

Fresh on the wheels of our getaway caravan, we take you through The Grand Indian Route  and drop you off at Kolkata. Experience the food, fun and frolic during the unparalleled fiesta, Durga Puja! 

What Is So Special About Kolkata’s Durga Puja?

Soumajoy Kundu

Goddess Durga is the epitome of power and energy, but to the Bengalis, she is like their affectionate daughter. While worshipping Goddess Durga, we worship valour and power, loving her as one’s own daughter are the two features of Durga Puja that make it so special for the Bengalis. 

Traditionally Durga Puja is a five day festival primarily celebrated by Bengali Hindus. Celebrating Durga Puja in Kolkata is more than just worship- it has now become a ten- to twelve-day festival across all religions and races. The preparation starts months before the fiesta. Etching its place on the top of the cultural festivals in Kolkata, there are over fifty thousand pujas in the city and suburbs. Tourist influx during Puja season skyrockets with millions of people from around the earth visiting Kolkata to experience an experience of a lifetime! 

Is that all? No. 

Durga Puja In Kolkata Is Way More Than This! There Are Multiple Types, Such As- 

Aritro Bose

1. Bonedi Baarir Pujo (Puja by the aristocrats)- If you are new in India and wish to taste the authentic Bengali culture and traditions, attend a Bonedi Baarir Durga Pujo! Clad in traditional Puja attire, the century old Bengali landlords or elite class households of Kolkata and Bengal maintain all the age-old traditional rituals and customs in celebrating the goddess of power.

Namely, Sovabazar Raj Bari Durga Puja, Rani Rashmoni Family Durga   Puja, Bhowanipore Dey Bari Durga Puja and so on.

2. Barowari Puja (Community/Public Puja)- Further subcategories of these pujas are- 

a. Grand Old Durga Puja- Unlike the household pujas, the Community Pujas are organised with funds raised from the public through donations or subscriptions and sponsorship in present times. These big old Durga pujas age back in time, and their evergreen legacy and popularity still ensue in the contemporary era.

Come with us to explore the pandals and decorations at Bagbazar Sarbojonin, College Square, Ekdalia Evergreen and more!  

b. Thematic Puja- Fellow reader, if you are an artistic individual or are interested in art and creativity, Kolkata’s artistic themes in pandals and idols will surely mind-boggle you! Everything about these pujas revolves around a chosen theme- environmental sustainability, women or marginalised community empowerment, Bengali folk culture celebration, and we could go on and on! 

In short, amusement at its prime! 

Some noteworthy pandals are Hindustan Club, Jodhpur Park, Suruchi Sangha, Ekdalia and the list on! 

But guess what the USP is? The magnificent scale- the impeccable artistry- the unimaginable impact! 

c. Parar Pujo (Locality Durga Puja)- If you wish to take a chill pill and enjoy the Durga Puja holidays- we have you covered! 

Although the magic and frenzy of the autumn fiesta never cease to excite, a local puja is less crowded and cosier, personal in nature. Catch up with your friends and family, have a gala!

With Durga Puja being included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2021, there has been a new zest in the following years’ celebrations. 

We bet that from the sky, the city of joy bathed in innumerable lights must look heavenly! 

One must visit Kolkata during the Pujas to experience it firsthand! 

But Do You Wonder What Are The Best Ways To Experience Kolkata’s Very Own Durga Puja Festival? 

Aritro Bose

If this is your first time, you do not want to miss out on anything, right? 

We second you. You deserve an immersive, comprehensive experience of the month-long carnival. 

1. Witness the idols being made- What is the best time to visit Kolkata for Durga Puja? Ideally, you should be in the city at least a week before the festivities begin- the finishing touches being put on the idols of the goddess is a sight to behold! If you are a photographer, this is literal art for you to snap! 

A thirty-minute drive from the city centre takes you to Kumortuli, a well-known place where most idols are handcrafted. 

If you go there on the occasion of Mahalaya (a week before Durga Puja starts), you will see the eyes drawn onto the statues in an auspicious ritual called Chokkhu Daan. 

2. The essence of dawn on Mahalaya- Mahalaya marks the commencement of the festivities. According to mythology, Mahalaya was the day when Goddess Durga descended on Earth. As mentioned earlier, this day is significant for another reason- the artisans who mould the clay soil of the deity paint the eyes and thus market the Chokkhu daan ritual, and the completion of the idol. 

In every household of a Bengali, on the day of Mahalaya, a tradition of waking up early to listen to Chandi Paath (hymns) has been passed down over generations. From the days of radio, Chandi recited from Devi Mahatmya by Shri Birendra Krishna Bhadra has been broadcasted on every channel on this day. Television also broadcasts the journey of Goddess Durga. 

To a Bengali, this sets the mood of Durga Puja. There is something magical, something empowering in his hymns that signifies the homecoming of Goddess Durga! 

3. Attend the Kola Bou Bath (Banana Bride Bath)- Puja commences with the invocation of the divine presence of Goddess Durga in the idols. This custom has a grave cultural significance of Durga Puja. 

Know how?

The ritual begins early in the morning, before dawn, with bathing a banana tree in the holy Ganges. The banana tree is dressed like a newlywed bride in a saree and is used to transport the goddess’s energy. 

Interesting, eh? 

But where do you get to witness it? 

Although this ritual happens in almost every other Ganga ghat, a few noteworthy are Princep Ghat, Bagh Bazar Ghat, and Ahiritola Ghat. 

4. Behold the immersive art installations- Right from Mahalaya, you get to witness local artistry in the shape of Alpona or Rangoli paintings over a kilometre long on myriad roads. Executed by myriad art pupils and inspired by the art of Rangoli, the creations are usually unveiled by a big-name celebrity. Dhaakis (drummer)flank the paintings, and the throbs of the drums seem to strengthen the spirit of the carnival. 

How exciting is this? 

If you are an artist, feel equally welcome to showcase your artistry and contribute to the merriment! 

Aritro Bose

5. Let us go Pandal Hopping- What is Durga Puja without pandal hopping, right? 

Visiting Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata is almost customary, each with a unique theme or standout decorative style. Kolkata’s artistic themes of the pandals that organisers can hit upon are unparalleled! 

Earlier, pandal hopping used to start from Shaptami (the seventh day of Navratri), but now it is a month-long affair! Clad in new garments, spectators pay a visit to their favourite pandals with their friends and family- Oh, the festive spirit! 

Check out Kumartuli Park Durga Puja, Md. Ali Park Puja, and Santosh Mitra Square – some notable tourist attractions in the Durga Puja of Kolkata! 

6. Participate in a Kumari Puja Constituting one of the historical aspects of the Durga Puja is the Kumari Puja. During the festival, Goddess Durga is worshipped in manifold forms. In this ritual, she is worshipped in the form of a young unmarried girl. 

Know why? 

This serves as a commemoration that Goddess Durga is omnipresent in all beings. Belur Math in Kolkata holds an extensive program of rituals for Durga Puja, including the highlight of the hour, Kumari Puja. 

Have you ever seen a carnival play out such diverse customs? 

One of a kind, we agree!

Soumajoy Kundu

7. Dance to the rhythm of your heart- Kolkata’s vibrant festive atmosphere is intense and intoxicating with fervour! 

After the evening rituals on Ashtami, it is traditional for the devotional Dhunuchi folk dance to be performed in front of Goddess Durga to please her. This is done by holding an earthen pot filled with burning coconut husk and camphor. Drummers lead the dancers with their beats, which vary in speed. Smoke, sound, and rhythmic sways are the vibe! 

It has become so popular that many have started organising competitions. 

Who doesn’t love a celebratory dance? 

If you do, too, join in! 

Dance the night away, fellow dancers! 

8. Witness the Durga idol immersion process- On the final day of Durga Puja, known as Dashami, the festivities commence with married women placing vermilion on the idol of Goddess Durga. Post which, they smear it on each other too- everyone in red, smiling while tearing up, a sight to experience! 

In the evening, the beauteous idols are immersed in the Ganges. You will be able to catch the action at any of the ghats along the river. 

Yet another scene to snap! 

May we suggest a better way of experiencing this? 

West Bengal, Tourism Development Corporation, conducts special immersion boat cruises down the river. Take one- make an unforgettable memory to cherish! 

Chant loud with the revellers- Aashchey Bochor Aabar Hobey! (It’ll happen again next year).  

9. Eat till you burp- Bengali cuisine at all times of the year tastes great, but during Durga Puja, a magical sweetness adds up- to something not even we can articulate! 

This is exactly why we say there is never a better time to sample Kolkata’s famous Bengali cuisine than Durga Puja! 

You will find a wide array of it everywhere- on the streets, at the pandals, and in speciality Bengali restaurants. 

Tired of pandal hopping? Take a break and satiate your tummy! 

Be it the famous shawarma stalls, phuchkas, or rasgullas- you ask it, they have it! 

The food served to devotees at the pandals is called bhog (offerings to the god which are distributed). Must eat! 

Kolkata’s Bengali restaurants serve authentic Bengali cuisine during Durga Puja- both buffet and a la carte. 

Eat till you burp- quite literally! 

10. Cheerfulness in the air- Kolkata turns into an ornamental fairyland, decorative fairy lights, and LED lights embellishing every nook and corner, driving away the lurking darkness with their illuminating intensity. The chitter chatter of people, the excursion of friends, and the late-night pandal hopping with family members drench the entire city with an effervescent festive mood. From the early hours of dawn till the middle of the night, the roads are packed with thousands of energetic people, all unanimously regaling in the spirit of the festival.  

Thousands of people visit India during Durga Puja. 

Durga Puja in Kolkata is arguably the biggest festival in the city. Living up to its name City of Joy, Durga Puja here is not merely a religious commemoration- It is a grand celebration, a triumph of spirit, so much so that the infectious energy attracts tourists from far and beyond!  

The tourism graph has been at an ‘all-time high’ in recent years! Wonder about the impact! 

Many say the demand for foreigners to visit Kolkata has spiked due to the inclusion of Durga Puja in UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2021. 

Rightfully so! 

Durga Puja has been a huge tourism opportunity for Bengal. Outside of Kolkata, this is one festival celebrated in salient States by salient Bengali organisations and clubs.  

Well, we say this is due to the sheer devotion and joy it derives. 

Owing to this, Durga Puja has become one of India’s biggest religious and cultural extravaganzas. There are oh-so-much to do and explore, and you will be overwhelmed!  

Go easy, though. Remember, you are here to enjoy. So keep your travelling plan simple- in fact, leave the planning to us; you just enjoy! 

If you are here alone or in a small group, we advise finding your crowd. With them, you would feel comfortable and safer exploring new places and enjoying the real fun wholeheartedly! 

We got your back! 

Contact us, and we shall help you meet new people who are travelling like you. 

Be one with the locals, get in their mix and have fun! 

The easiest way to participate in the celebrations is to take a Durga Puja festival tour, such as the ones organised by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation will list tours and make online bookings, Calcutta Photo Tours, and Walks of Kolkata. 

More information about Durga Puja, including tours, is also available on West Bengal Tourism’s Durga Puja website. 

Get in touch with us for a tailor-made Durga Puja in Kolkata travel itinerary!  

Needless to say, India is a multifaceted nation that blends the vibrant colours of various festivals. Indian festivals are finely blended, traditionally grounded, palpably felt, visually mottled, ethically varied, and grandly celebrated. 

Quite the reason why people from all around come by to have a good time- do you wish to too? 

Take a cultural trip to India!

Check out our year-long festival guide to know which excites you more, and plan your next trip to India with us accordingly! 

Going back to the primary question of this article,

What Is So Special About Kolkata’s Durga Puja? 

Soumajoy Kundu

Ask a Bengali, and they will answer that the cultural heritage, the pure emotions attached to this festival and the rich legacy that has passed on from generation to generation and the saga. 

Traditionally, Durga Puja is the homecoming of the daughter. It is when we celebrate the homecoming of our loved ones it is time to celebrate the rich heritage. 

Even if you are a global citizen, for that one month, you are a Bengali. Hence, a must-visit place on the bucket list of travellers from around the world. 

Durga Puja in Kolkata is an experience to be treasured forevermore!  

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