India is a land of festivals. The various religions that blend into the fabric of the Indian society give innumerable occasions to celebrate with tremendous amount of fanfare and frenzy. Dusshera is one such festival that celebrates victory of the good over the evil and also salutes the power of women. Of all the places it is celebrated in, I would have to say, with certain authority that, no place could compare with the festivities in West Bengal during this occasion and specifically Kolkata than anywhere else.
Dusshera is celebrated by Bengalis world over as Durga Puja. Durga is a Goddess that represents women power and created to take on and defeat the evil in the world. The clay idols of Durga are created each year she and her entourage are kept in a bamboo and cloth based structure created and decorated specifically for this occasion called Pandals. All of this is done in localities around Kolkata with contribution from inhabitants of that locality. The scale of the Pujas in Kolkata has grown over period of time and from community contribution based Pujas, it has gone on to attract corporate sponsorship. As time passed and traditions became flexible there were greater experiments brought into the style of conducting Pujas, this gave way to many competitions. Now panel of judges visit all the Pandals and judge which one had a better pandal or a better idol or the general theme and award those localities accordingly. Today Durga Puja is conducted all across the world, especially USA/UK/Germany/Singapore/Malaysia/Melbourne, it also does the work of fostering community feeling as everybody contributes to conduct these Pujas
I won’t be wrong if I were to say that, the life of a Bengali pretty much revolves around the Durga Puja. It is a festival that the young and the old of the family equally look forward to with equal enthusiasm. What does it mean to be in Kolkata during this time? I don’t know how much could be explained or expressed in words, I guess it is more about a sight to behold and a thing to be experienced. The frenzy or fervor of the occasion is tough to capture in words or even a picture, it is about thousands of localities conducting Durga Pujas, it is about extravagant lighting literally in every nook and corner of the city, it is about oceans and oceans of people till wherever eye could see, it is about one locality trying to outdo the other in its Pandal decoration and theme, it is about street food, it is about long hours of walking going from one locality to the other, it is about time ceasing to exist or have any meaning as night blends into day and day blends into night, it’s about passion. This is a time when everything else takes backseat, anything celebrated at such a large scale and with such fervor would obviously have withdrawal syndrome when it all comes to an end as everything does. I present to you some of the choicest pictures from the 2012 Kolkata Durga Puja.
Beautiful clay idols of Goddess Durga:
Believe it or not these are all structures made of Bamboo/Cloth/and other recyclable items only for the 4-5 days of the festival: