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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

Which are the festivals and events celebrated in Kolkata (Calcutta)?

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Being a city that loves traditions and celebrations, festivals and events are a way of life for Kolkata. People join in with full devotion and energy and the city takes on an all new life. Such is the religion of celebrations in Kolkata, that even the rest of the country can’t help but get infected with the festive fever! Read on and find out more about all the action!

  • Durga Pooja

    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 the country, specially 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 our 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. Women are dressed in hues of white and red, often apply powdered red colour 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 that lure the non-fasters with their scrumptious treats to Bollywood star appearance and performances, Durga Pooja 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 will notice an earthen money bank or Lakkhi Band at every other pandal, which is a trademark item sold during these celebrations, so make sure you pick one up.  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!
  • Rath Yatra

    Rath Yatra or the Chariot Festival is another famous festival in Kolkata. This annual festival is celebrated on Ashad Shukla Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashad month, which usually falls in the month of July) to commemorate the events of Lord Krishna's journey to Gundicha Mata's temple. Three richly decorated chariots which resemble temple structures, are pulled through the streets of Kolkata. The procession is lead by Balarama’s chariot followed by Subhadra's chariot and the Jagannath's chariot. A glimpse of Lord Jagannath on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious, even the touch of the chariot or the ropes with which these are pulled is considered holy enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages, as it is said that on this occasion, the chariot, the wheels, the grand avenue all become one with Lord Jagannatha himself. Thousands of people gather to see these chariots every year. During the entire week of the Rath Yatra, the deities are daily dressed in new attires and served with poda pitha or rice cakes.

  • Kolkata Film Festival

    Inaugurated by the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray in the year 1985, the Kolkata Film Festival is one of the oldest film festivals of our country. Being one of the things the city prides  itself on, the festival showcases a host of local, national and international movies every year and is acclaimed and respected not just in India, but overseas as well. Some of the prestigious works that are showcased here are those of Miguel Littin, Fernando Solanas, E. Subriela, Ali Ozgenturk and Amos Gitai. Bring out the best of the critique in you and revel in the best of what cinema has to offer!
  • Kolkata Book Fair

    Taking place in the month of January, the Kolkata Book Fair is a major attraction for book lovers all over India. Often called the World’s largest non- trade book fair, Kolkata organises this event with great gusto at Maidan Garden. This festival is the world’s third largest book exhibition event and has registered the participation of some 23 countries together! This is also India’s second oldest book fair and countless bookworms stream into Maidan to make it a roaring success every season. This is a 12 day festival celebrated in Kolkata so plan your trip accordingly if you wish to visit during these times. What makes this event all the more exciting is all the activity that surrounds the book exhibitions: from singers and dancers to hawkers selling candy floss and jhalmuri, you are going to find it all here.This fair may often take more than a day to scale, so it will come in handy if you prepare with the list of stalls you want to visit beforehand!
  • Saraswati Pooja

    The art capital of our country, Kolkata celebrates the Saraswati Pooja every year with a lot of enthusiasm and fanfare to thank the Goddess for her bounty of learning and arts. This festival is marked by Veena performances to honour Goddess Saraswati and young children are initiated into the world of learning by making them write ‘Om’ and offering the same to the goddess. Men dress up in dhoti and carry shawls while women wear yellow sarees which are considered auspicious for the occasion.

    There is no better way to experience Saraswati Pooja than join in the celebrations at the home of a local family. Try to befriend your hotel staff when here and ask if they would like to make you a part of their celebrations, and if they agree, make sure you dress appropriately to avoid offending them.

Join into the celebrations or get a taste of the sophisticated Bengali choice of art and literature to take up the fun quotient of your holiday in Kolkata by notches! Being a part of these events will give you a never before experience of this megacity, so thank your stars if you have the opportunity to be a part of one!

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