Memories of Durga Puja at Kolkata!!!

Its Mahalaya today, the day when its said Maa Durga starts her journey from Kailash to visit us all. Last many years I have been part of this big festival of Bengalis, got involved so much that last year I recall many commented I become more of a bengali during this festival than Himachali. 😀

This year being so far off from Kolkata I really feel nostalgic. Its a fact, Durga Puja anywhere other than Kolkata (Bengal) is not the same. The festival has a completely different charm there. That booming sound of “Dhak”, the “Ulu’s” by women, the reverbating sound of “Shankha”, the chantings and “Ghonta” of priests, they all ushers an atmosphere of pure bhakti, joy and bliss. And this does not start with Mahalaya or Shashti. It starts with Dashami. Yes friends, on Vijaya Dashami, when Maa leaves for Kailash, after immersion the first thing we say – Just 365 more days and pujo comes. That is how I have always waited for Durga pujo every year.

Shiuli flower, blooming of the same passes the message Maa Durga is coming soon.

Its on the day of Jagannath Snan that making of our idol used to get started with tying of dry paddy plants to the main wooden structure. Today Mahalaya and we would have “Luchi” and “Chhola Daal” with jelebis. Mahalaya breakfast without “Jilipi”, nah, never!!! Early morning and throughout the day you would hear mahisasur mardini being played at different “Para Pujo”. Pandals are almost ready and puja committee people are busy getting things finalised.

Panchami night our guru Maa would adorn the idol with special “Abhushan” and “Ashtra”. Bodhon as we called it and Sree Sree Maa would infuse “Pran” and shakti into the idol.

Kash, the sachharum flowers. They also mark the coming of Durga. Fields full of Kash flowers and sky turning red in the evening, bengalis say its because Maa Durga is fighting everything evil and making plans to visit us. Kash flowers are blooming to welcome the Goddess.

On the beat of Dhak, and other instruments, its always something I looked forward to. After that there would be no sleep whole night. Next day Shashti, early morning before sun rises we would be going to the Ganges on lorry. “Kola Bou Snan”, after which the actual puja starts. A Banana plant is taken and bathed, drapped with a yellow red border new saree. Giving it the look of a newly wed bride!!!

Saptami through Dashami, puja continues with us all busy, running around, not just with pujo arrangements but also pushpanjali. Food being an important part of pujas. Saptami used to be Khichuri, Labda, Beguni. Ashtami was luchi and special bhog. Nawami was special with a special “Payesh” bhog from Sree Sree Maa besides pulao, paneer, cauliflower preparation, chutni and papad. The taste of all these food still lingers now while I write, miss them all today!!! 😦

Shandhi puja on all these days have been a special attraction for me. Besides ofcourse the Yagna. More than 200 people sitting together and chanting the

Aparajita, another flower closely associated with Durga Puja. And I love the long garland made from this flower for Maa Durga on Navami. Then on Dashami, Aparajita plant puja is done as the flower is considered to be mark of Shakti.

mantras while yagna is done, it would bring in a feeling I can’t even put down in words. Pandal hopping late night and having all junk food through out the night, that was added attraction. 😀

Dashami and the “Sindor” khela, that is a spectacle never to be missed. Women besides putting sindur on Maa Durga, get down to play holi with the same sindur. And then comes the moment of truth, Maa with her children would be leaving for Kailash!! Its time for immersion or as said “Bishorjon”. Sree Sree Maa does the “Boron” and bids  Maa Durga goodbye with specially made sweets and “Paan” at ashram. Few with strength and few others with lot of advises and instructions, Maa and her children are loaded on lorry without any damage. We all would also board the lorries with Dhak and start towards  Ganges while dancing on the beats of dhak. And then the immersion. The idols would be next boarded on boats and taken to the middle of the river where now Maa is bidden farewell, with the hope, she’ll be back after just 365 days. “Shanti Jol” is collected and we all get back with shouts “Durga mai ki Jai” and “Ashche bachor abar ashbe”.

Bisarjan, immersion of Maa Durga idol. This is something which always left me very sad. I recall times when I even shed tears while bidding her good bye.

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9 thoughts on “Memories of Durga Puja at Kolkata!!!

  1. Beautiful Bhaskar! You brought the essence of durga pujo so vividly, reminded me of my childhood. Now I too am feeling nostalgic. Missing Kolkata.

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  2. Reading through article, always felt its a fellow bangali writing. You do sound more a bangali than northie.

    Pujo is our most important festival, and you brought back so many nostalgic memories through this article. Wish you best these pujos and hoping you’ll surely be at kolkata next year.

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  3. Reading reminded me of durga puja. It used to be fun. Miss those student days!

    You do are more bengali now haha.

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  4. Thank u Bhaskar……I didn’t know the essence of Durga puja…….its beautiful..

    Wishing u Shubho Mahalaya and Happy Navaratri.

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  5. Reading through makes you nostalgic. Feel like going back home. Another year, I am away from Kolkata during pujo. Hoping and calling Maa to bless so that I can be there next year.

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  6. If there is one thing I miss here like crazy, it’s Durga Pujo. Of course, unless you live in a close knit community, Durgo Pujo has become way too commercial to be as enjoyable as it used to be in my childhood. Still, nothing compares to the dhak, dhol, kasha, ullu and dhunuch.

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