By Abhishikta Mallick

The festive season kick starts with an east-Indian’s favorite time of the year-Durga Puja or Durgotsav. Celebrated annually in the Hindu month of Ashwin, the five day festival commemorates the slaying of demon king Mahishasura by goddess Durga, marking the triumph of good over evil.

In addition to being a celebration of traditional customs and culture, it is also a reason to PARTY! With music, drama and dance performances, delightful food stalls and the spirit of merriment, we recommend that you experience the festivities first hand and visit one of these. And no, you don’t have to be Bengali to enjoy pujo. While it does help having a friend who’s familiar with the what-where-how at a pandal, the essence of the festival lies in just having a ball with your dear ones, family and community. It’s a remarkable cultural feast – so put on some bright colours, step out, exchange smiles with a stranger, grab a quick bite, witness the aarti and watch the city come to life.


Here are 5 things to keep a look out for at Durga Puja |

The Spiritual | Words cannot describe the myriad sounds in a pandal– the customary hulhuli {sound produced by women on auspicious occasions}, the typical shankha {conch}, the beat of dhaakis{drums}, and the excited chatter of eager revelers. The Pushpanjali in the morning, and sandhya aarti in the evening are truly mesmerizing, and often accompanied by the dhanuchi dance.

Durga Puja also includes the worship of Shiva, Lakshmi {goddess of wealth}, Saraswati {goddess of wisdom}, Ganesha and Kartikeya {sons of Durga}, and Kola Bou {a plantain tree, ritually transformed into a goddess during the festival and regarded as the wife of Ganesha}.

durga-puja-delhi-1-300x200 Five Things to Watch Out for at Durga Puja{Photo courtesy:}

The Artistic | Extremely talented artists pull out all stops and put together new themes each year – from abstract to exotic, the marquees are dazzling. With themes as varied as Egyptian culture, London Olympics, rural traditional design, or ecofriendly marquee created out of waste material; the pandals are really a work of art. These compete for prizes for the best pandal, not only in the city, but at a national level!

The Fashionable | The goddess is bedecked in all finery, sometimes real silver and gold. With the budget running into tens of lacs, often sponsored by corporates, the process of creation of idols starts months in advance. The eyes of the goddess are painted on the first day of the Puja {Mahalaya}, and are considered definitive of Her beauty. Bengali lady folk are also seen sporting the latest styles in Indian wear, fancy accessories, and impeccable make-up.

durga-puja2 Five Things to Watch Out for at Durga Puja{Photo courtesy:}

The Friendship |  Kolkata’s puja organizers this year have roped in Pakistani artist, Haider Ali and his group, to put up an exquisite piece of ‘truck art’. Such is the spirit of camaraderie during the festival, transcending boundaries and prejudices. Irrespective of nativity, religious belief or economic background, everyone is invited with open arms to participate in the revelry. Pujo is also a time the youngsters are explicitly allowed to flirt and have a good time!

The Party | Durga Puja is like a big carnival! Take a walk in CR Park and you’ll see what I mean. Groups of families and friends, all dressed up and radiant, are seen pandal-hopping; often stopping for a snack on the way {and the food options are endless}. Be it the Ashtami prasad sevan, or the mughlai paratha and devil chop counters, Pujo really showcases the ‘dildaar’ east-indian way of living. The options range from home bakers and gelato to old Delhi chaat paapdi and the quintessential Calcutta kathi roll; pick up something to keep your taste buds busy while you enjoy the rest of the programme. Each committee puts up a cultural item, be it a funny spin on the Raam Leela, a Bangla-rock gig or a stand-up comedy performance. Most of them have facebook pages with detailed itineraries of events, offerings and contests; take your pick!


Notes in our Little Black Book |

  • For the story behind Durga Pujo and the top 5 pandals last year, click here.
  • Puja Schedule : 10th October, 2013 {Maha Shashti} – 14th October, 2013 {Bijoya Dasami}
  • Themes for this year’s marquees –
    • K Block, C R Park : Women empowerment
    • B Block, C R Park : Rajasthani folk art
    • Matri Mandir Durga Puja : Tibetan pagodas
    • Best selling food items – devil chop, fish cutlets, biryani, mughlai paratha, ghughni, jhal muri

Sarad Subhecha! Have a great festive season, Dilli!

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