Thursday, October 25, 2007

Durga Puja in Kolkata

In Bengali there is a saying that there are thirteen festivals in twelve months. Durga puja is definitely the star one of them. We consider Goddess Durga comes down from the heavenly abode to our dear earth at this time of the year as if a daughter visits her parent's house for four days. Perhaps our city Kolkata displays more frenzy at her approach.

Plans for the puja start months ahead of the event. Family pujas are observed in the traditional way where as collective pujas ,we call it 'baro-jary' Pujas. It is derived from baro (twelve), and jary (friends). Actually such venture was first kicked off on the decision of twelve friends who thought such pujas may be organized. With the passage of time such pujas have gained more strength. To provide competitive atmosphere some business houses are offering prizes for best idol, best decoration, best theme of pandal etc. etc.

On the other side , this is the most important time for the business groups. They keep their shops open for all the seven days of the week for about a month ahead of the event. Starting from dresses, jeweleries to food grains to sweetmeat dealers make most during this time. Discounts of special nature are offered for different household items. This gives a great boost to other sectors also. The idol makers,the pandal decorators, the lighting experts are all having a busy business time.

No festival is complete without special foods. Hotels & Restaurants prepare special dishes for the festive periods. Many people do enjoy foods outside their houses when they are busy in pandal hopping. The city does not sleep during these days. The puja has gradually become an international event. With more & more Bengali migrating to different countries of the worlds, it is observed as a point of get-together or reunion.

This is the biggest Bengali festival in a year that I have been wanting to be present once later. Every year around this time, we were asked to buy some good clothes for ourselves for this festival. We should also greet family members 'shubho bijoya'. If we are there, we should also touch the elders' feet to show respect. Senior Awaara wrote another piece for this, and I still feel that there were more interesting part. You might want to read some more from this New York Times article: A 10-Armed Goddess Charms a Frenetic Megalopolis .

What I was fascinated the most is that, during this festival for three days, the place where Mr. and Mrs. Senior Awaara live, hired cooks to cook for the whole community, both breakfast and lunch. Of course everyone donate some money to make this happen. Moreover, it is also a great community participation with their passion and effort. Mrs. Senior Awaara couldn't find time to talk with us, since she was running busy all the time from early morning till evening for the work involved in this celebration. She and some other ladies in the neighborhood, once got up in the morning at 3:00am, to make prassad, a kind of sweet, to be given to the God and Goddess.

PS. The photo was taken by Mr. Awaara's sister in a Bombay.