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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

How is Durga Pooja celebrated in Kolkata (Calcutta)?

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There  is no better time to experience Kolkata than be a part of its Durga Pooja festivities! Celebrations which have grown to become the hallmark of West Bengal, Durga Pooja sees numerous colourful Pandals sprout up in this city which serves as the capital of these celebrations.  

A ten day celebration you can witness in the month of October, Durga Pooja is celebrated to mark the auspicious moment when Goddess Durga beheaded the Demon Lord Mahishasur. This festival is marked by nine days of fasting and offering prayers to the Goddess and thanking her for removing evil from the world. Each Pandal (temporary edifices which are highly decorative) has its own massive idol of the Goddess, which is worshipped during this period. On the ninth day, an immense Havana is organised, where final offerings are made to Goddess Durga and Agni (the fire element). On the tenth day, Sindoor Khela is celebrated, where married women parade with the idol of the Goddess to the nearest water body, dancing to intoxicating beats. Women are dressed in hues of white and red, often apply vermillion to each other to mark the happy occasion and immerse the Goddess in the water, marking her union with the whole universe.

Aside from the rigorous fasting and timely prayers during this period, there is also a lot of not-to-miss action going on at the Pandals. From the numerous food stalls in Kolkata that lure the non-fasters with their scrumptious treats to Bollywood star appearances and performances, Durga Pooja in Kolkata witnesses it all. Modern artists have taken the representation of the tussle between the Goddess and the Demon to surreal levels and Pandal decorations are not behind either and given all this, it is not difficult to fathom why there are competitions between Pandals to win the coveted title of the Best Pandal for the year. You must go Pandal hopping and witness the idols (and don’t forget to eat the yummy goodies) and while at it, don't forget to seek some blessings for you and your loved ones!

The time that leads up to the Pooja is also a delight to observe. The making of massive sculptures and idols, painting of the ferocious eyes of Maa Durga, setting up the decorative Pandals, decking the streets up in fineries and last minute rehearsals of the performers - all are a delight to capture in your lense. No wonder, the Durga Pooja celebrations are called the best times to photograph Kolkata. This buzzing activity and festive fervour will give you a totally new outlook of the City of Joy and will make you fall in love with the place, all over again, without doubt!

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