Kolkata, The City of Joy is famous worldwide for its fascinating cultures, amicable people and mesmerizing festivals. People from all over the world flock to this friendly city every year to witness various festivals celebrated throughout the year. The major festival of Kolkata is Durga Puja which is celebrated in autumn season.
If you are planning to visit Kolkata, then Durga Puja is the perfect time to go there. The magnificence of this festival enthralls the visitors in a way that they love to come back to the city during Durga Puja every year.
Mythological story of Durga Puja
There are several stories related to Durga Puja. The most popular one is that of Goddess Durga killing the demon Mahishasura. This is believed that Mahishasura made the life of the people of the earth and heaven unbearable with his gang of demons. He prayed to Lord Brahma for many years to give him the power of immunity. Lord Brahma was pleased with his austerity and granted his wish. This made him very powerful and arrogant and he started torturing all the gods of heaven and people of the earth. When it became totally unbearable for the lords, then they went to Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and prayed to them to save them from the demons. Then the trio created Goddess Durga with their power and named her Devi Durga. Different weapons were given to Ma Durga by different Lords to fight with Mahishasura. Then the goddess lured the demon with her beauty and finally destroyed him and his gang along with her mount lion.
There is also a folk tale that says that Ma Durga visits her father’s house on the earth along with her children every year in autumn for 10 days and then on the 10th day her husband Lord Shiva comes to take her back home in heaven.
How is Durga puja celebrated in Kolkata?
Durga Puja is celebrated in Kolkata with loads of emotions, enthusiasm, and preparations. Goddess Durga resides in the hearts of the Bengalis and their zeal and happiness know no bounds when the festival arrives.
Mahalya Day which comes 11 days prior to Dusshera or Dashami brings the message of arrival of Ma Durga. After that the countdown begins and Durga Puja is celebrated for the next 10 days. Some rituals are performed on the first 5 days. However, the main festival is celebrated for the next 5 days.
Almost all the local clubs and some residents of Kolktata celebrate Durga Puja in the clubs and houses respectively. The huge ornamented idols of Goddess Durga along with the idols of her children Goddess Laxmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesha, Lord Karthik, the demon Ashura and the mount lion are a sight to behold as these idols as a whole tell us the story of Ashura Daman or Defeat of demons by Ma Durga. Huge pandals are built to place the idols and let the visitors get the view of the idols.
Special vegetarian dishes along with sweets called Bhog is offered to Ma Durga. Pushpanjali (flower with Sanskrit chants) are offered to the idols. The beats of dhaks, sounds of conches and bells fill the air with a magnetic aura of divinity. There is also a special dance called Dhunuchi dance where people dance with an incense burner called Dhunuchi in their hands to perform Aarti.
Men, women and kids of different ages dress up each day of the festival and go for pandal hopping to appreciate the artwork and idol of different pandals. People flock to the stalls of variety of food items.
On the last day which is called Dashami, the married women offer Sindoor (vermilion) to the idols to bid them farewell and play Sindoor Khela with other married women by putting the red colour on each other’s faces. Finally, the idols are taken in a truck or lorry to the nearest river and immersed in the water. People take part in these elaborate processions and dance to the tunes of the dhaks.
Why is Durga Puja famous in Kolkata?
The 5-day long festival is not only the most desirable festival to the Bengalis but also to the people of other religions living here.
Although Durga Puja is celebrated in many parts of India and outside India, Durga Puja in Kolkata is remarkably unique, especially joyful and culturally significant. This is mostly because of the spirit that can be seen in the people of Kolkata during the festival.
Let me give you a handful reasons why Durga Puja is famous here. They are:
- Pre-puja preparation which includes loads of shopping, gifting clothes or accessories to dear ones, planning for pandal hopping and many more things.
- Beautifully decorated pandals with special themes
- Wonderfully adorned idols
- Several cultural programs of music, dance, drama and recitations hosted by various local clubs and organizations
- Availability of mouth-watering street food at various stalls near puja pandals in every locality
- Adventurous pandal hopping in various places to view the attractive artwork of pandals and lighting
- Sacred and delicious Bhog Prasad( the food offered to God) at different pandals
- Last but not the least the fun-filled Visharjan( immersion of the idol)
What to do during Durga Puja?
You can never remain idle or get bored if you visit Kolkata during Durga Puja. The spirit of the festival is transferred from the natives of the place to the visitors of the city in miraculous ways.
Here are the things you can enjoy during Durga Puja:
- You can visit some of the innumerable pandals and view the magnificent idols of different types and intricate and fascinating theme pandals.
- All the clubs allow everyone to offer Pushpanjali to God. You can also devote your time to God by offering flowers and praying to her.
- You can enjoy the delicious Bhog
- You can enjoy a variety of street food at various stalls near the pandals.
- You can enjoy the vibrant Shindoor Khela on Dashami or take part in the procession for the immersion of the idols.
- Last but not the least, if you have a sweet tooth you can enjoy innumerable variety of sweets sold at various sweet shops during Durga Puja.
Which places to visit in Kolkata during Durga Puja?
Since pandal hopping is the favourite activity during Durga Puja, you can visit the famous puja pandals of various clubs and associations and explore the city. Some of the famous clubs you can visit are:
- Ekdalia Evergreen in Ballyganj
- Kumartuli Park Durga Puja in Kumartuli
- Bosepukur TalBagan in Kasba
- Shribhumi in Lake Town
- FD Block in Saltlake
- 66 Pally in Kalighat
- Chetla Agrani in Chetla
- Suruchi Sangha in New Alipore
- Naktala Udayan Sangha in Garia
- Ali Park in College Square
- Dumdum Park Tarun Sangha in Dumdum
What to eat during Durga Puja?
Durga Puja is a great festival for foodies as a wide range of street foods as well as authentic Bengali dishes at several restaurants are available for them to splurge on. Street food items like Phuchka, Papdi Chat, Dahi Vada, Kathi Rolls, Mughlai , kebabs, singaras, Ghugni, Pakodas, Chhola Bhatura, Momo, and many more are widely enjoyed by all during the festive time. Some of the best authentic dishes you can try are Maccher jhol, Dhokar Dalna, Chingri Malaikari, Shorshe Ilish, Aloo Posto, Chholar dal, Luchi, Alur Dam, Kosha Mangsho and Pulav etc.
Which are the best eateries to visit in Kolkata during Durga Puja?
Some of the best restaurants or eateries you should visit during your stay in Kolkata are:
- Bhojohori Manna
- Kosher Kosha
- Barbeque Nation
- Oh! Calcutta
- 6 Ballyganj Place
- C Das
- China Town
- Jimmy’s Kitchen
- Peter Cat
- La Cucinia
- Baan Thai
- JW Kitchen
- Waterside Café
- Banana Leaf
- Mainland China
Where to stay in Kolkata?
You can stay in various classy and comfortable hotels as well as guest houses in Kolkata. There are also old houses of the British era which have been turned into classy and sophisticated boutique hotels with the best of the amenities and luxuries at affordable rates.
Most of the accommodations in Kolkata provide the best of the facilities and food.
What to buy from Kolkata?
You can shop for various handicraft items, Terracota (red coloured burnt clay) items and jewelleries, handloom sarees, shawls, and dresses, Bengal famous Tant Fabric and Batik print sarees and dresses, junk jewelleries, small idols of Shiva and other gods and goddesses, Jute bags and accessories, to name a few.
Where to shop in Kolkata?
There are many street shops, showrooms, and malls where you can shop from in Kolkata.
Some of the famous shopping areas are:
- Gariahat Market
- New Market
- Vardaan Market
- College Street
- Hati Bagan Market
Some of the famous shopping malls are:
- Quest Mall
- South City Mall
- City Centre 1
- City Centre 2
- Axis Mall
- Mani Square
- Avani Riverside
The moment you arrive in Kolkata during Durga Puja, the city welcomes you with lots of warmth and decorations. There is an aura of comfort and excitement around the city during this festive period.
If you plan to visit Kolkata during Durga Puja, you must book your reservations for flight and accommodations early to avoid the last-minute rush.