The Hindu festival of Durga Puja, also known as Durgotsava or Sharadotsav, is a yearly celebration that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It honours the Hindu goddess Durga and commemorates her victory over Mahishasur. West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tripura, Assam, and Bangladesh are among the Indian states where it is especially well-liked and traditionally observed. The event is celebrated in the month of Ashwin, which on the Gregorian calendar falls between September and October. The final five days of the ten-day festival known as Durga Puja are the most important. A temporary stage and structural decorations are used for the public puja, which is also performed in homes (known as pandals).
In addition, there are public processions, feasting, family visits, gift-giving, and scripture recitals to honour the event. In the Hindu Shaktism tradition, Durga Puja is a significant event.
In December 2021, UNESCO included the Durga Puja in Kolkata to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. According to Hindu scriptures, the festival commemorates goddess Durga's victory over the shape-shifting demon Mahishasura. The event symbolised the triumph of good over evil while also honouring the goddess as the motherly force that is responsible for all life and creation. Durga puja falls during the time of other Hindu traditions' festivities of Navratri and Dussehra, during which the Ram Lila dance-drama is performed to mark the victory. Durga Puja is celebrated all over India in different forms like Dussehra or Navratri. But Durga Puja is most popular in the state of West Bengal due to the most festivities in the capital city of Kolkata, the city of Joy.
History of Durga Puja:
Durga Puja, also known as Durgotsava or Sharodotsava, is an annual Hindu festival celebrated in the Indian subcontinent that honours and reveres the Hindu goddess Durga and commemorates Durga's victory over Mahishasur. It is especially popular and widely observed in the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tripura, Assam, and Bangladesh. The festival is held during the month of Ashwin in the Indian calendar, which corresponds to September-October in the Gregorian calendar. Durga Puja is a ten-day festival, with the last five days being the most important. The puja is performed both privately and publicly, with the latter including a temporary stage and structural decorations (known as pandals).
Scripture recitations, performance arts, revelry, gift-giving, family visits, feasting, and public processions are also part of the festival. Durga puja is a significant festival in Hinduism's Shaktism tradition. Durga puja in Kolkata has been inscribed on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in December 2021. According to Hindu mythology, the festival commemorates Goddess Durga's victory over the shape-shifting asura Mahishasura. As a result, the festival symbolises the triumph of good over evil, though it is also a harvest festival honouring the goddess as the motherly power behind all life and creation. Durga puja coincides with Navaratri and Dussehra celebrations observed by other Hindu traditions, during which the Ram Lila dance-drama is performed, commemorating the goddess Durga.
Durga is the primary goddess honoured during Durga Puja, but other major Hindu deities such as Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity), Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge and music), Ganesha (the god of new beginnings), and Kartikeya are also honoured (the god of war). These deities are considered Durga's children in Bengali and Odia traditions, and Durga Puja is believed to commemorate Durga's visit to her natal home with her beloved children. The festival is preceded by Mahalaya, which is thought to mark the beginning of Durga's journey to her birthplace. The main festival begins on the sixth day (Shasthi) when the goddess is welcomed with rituals.
The festival concludes on the tenth day (Vijaya Dashami) when devotees lead a procession to a river or other body of water and immerse the worshipped clay sculpture-idols, symbolising her return to the divine cosmos and her marital home with Shiva in Kailash. There are regional and community variations in the festival's celebration and rituals observed.
Durga puja is an ancient Hindu tradition, though its exact origins are unknown. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th century provide guidelines for Durga puja, and historical records indicate that major Durga puja festivities have been sponsored by royalty and wealthy families since at least the 16th century. During the British Raj, the importance of Durga puja grew in the provinces of Bengal, Odisha, and Assam. In modern times, however, the importance of Durga puja is more as a social and cultural festival than a religious one, regardless of where it is observed.
Durga puja has evolved into an inseparable part of Indian culture over the years, with a diverse group of people celebrating this festival in their own unique way while adhering to tradition.
Durga Puja celebration in Kolkata:
The biggest festival honouring Goddess Durga held in the capital city during Navaratri is Durga Puja, which is celebrated in Kolkata. Even though the Durga Pujo festival is unquestionably grandly observed over the globe, Kolkata's celebration of the holiday is unmatched in fervour. The Pandals with the enormous idols of Goddess Durga are open for tourists from the sixth day of the celebration until the ninth day. The idol's Visarjan (immersion in water), which is celebrated on the tenth day and is also known as Dashami, is marked by lavish festivities and processions.
Dates of Durga Puja 2022: This year, the festival will be celebrated from 1st October to 5th October.
In this blog, we will discuss the top 10 Durga Puja Pandals in Kolkata.
Top 10 Pandals of Kolkata:
1. Bagbazar Sarbojonin:
One of Kolkata's oldest Durga Puja pandals, Bagbazar, turned 100 in 2018. The pandal is a fairly straightforward structure that emphasises tradition and culture. However, it consistently draws attention due to its stunningly gorgeous idol of Goddess Durga. On its premises, there is an exhibition that includes carnival-style games and stalls. Another well-known tradition is the sindoor khela, in which married women cover the idol with red sindoor (powder) before taking it for immersion on Dashami (the festival's last day). To see it, visitors travel from all around the city.
Location: Bagbazar beside the river in north Kolkata. Near the Bagbazar Launch Ghat and Bagbazar Kolkata Circular Railway Station. Shyambazar is the nearest Metro train stop.
2. Kumartuli Park:
Being founded in 1995, Kumartuli Park is a pandal that is still relatively new but has already earned a lot of recognition. Because it takes place where many of the Durga idols are created by skilled clay artisans, it is especially unique. Expect the unexpected because the organisers like to think outside the box when choosing themes.
Location: North Kolkata, along the river at Kumartuli Park, just before Bagbazar (ideally, plan to visit both pandals). The nearest railway station is the Sovabazar Metro. It's also close to Sovabazar Launch Ghat.
3. Suruchi Sangha:
After covering the two great pandals in North Kolkata, let us move towards South Kolkata. If North Kolkata specialises in maintaining tradition and culture, then South Kolkata specialises in unique themes. One great example is Suruchi Sangha. This pandal showcases on showing the integrity of each of the Indian States every year and merging them with the flavour of Kolkata.
Be it showcasing the handicrafts of Bishnupur or the artwork of Udaipur or the temple style in south India, Suruchi Sangha never fails to astonish us with their uniqueness. Visitors are entertained by Suruchi Sangha's artistic outdoor exhibition, which features an annual theme based on a different state in India. This Puja pandal has been there for more than 50 years, but it first gained notoriety in 2003 when it received a prize for the most adorned pandal. The craftsmanship is outstanding.
Location: South Kolkata, in New Alipore, adjacent to the gas station on Nalini Ranjan Avenue (close to the National Highway 117 intersection). Majerhat and Kalighat railway stations are the closest.
4. Badamtala Ashar Sangha
Long-standing Durga Puja pandal Badamtala Ashar Sangha holds a particular place in people's hearts. From small beginnings, it developed and in 2010 took home a prize for creative brilliance. The pandal was one of the first in the city to begin experimenting with themes in 1999. Since then, it has explored a variety of fascinating issues.
Location: South Kolkata. Nepal Bhattacharjee Street, Kalighat. Right near the Kalighat Metro railway station and Rash Bihari Avenue.
5. Ballygunge Cultural Association:
The Ballygunge Cultural Association first celebrated Durga Puja in 1951. Despite experimenting with different creative genres every year, it offers classic cultural activities. Bamboo, cane, and steel were previously used to create the eco-friendly pandal.
Location: South Kolkata. 57 Jatindas Road, Hemanta Mukherjee Sarani, Lake Terrace, Ballygunge. It's off Southern Avenue and Lake Road. The closest railway station is Kalighat.
6. Ekdalia Evergreen:
In business since 1943, Ekdalia Evergreen is renowned for its exquisite copies of Hindu temples from all around India. Fantastic lighting and decor are used. One of the city's tallest Durga idols may be found in the pandal.
Location: Gariahat, in South Kolkata. It can be found off Rash Behari Avenue heading toward the Gariahat Flyover, close to Mandevilla Gardens, where the South Point Junior School is located. The closest train stations are Kalighat Metro and Ballygunge.
7. Jodhpur Park:
One of the largest pandals in South Kolkata is the expansive Jodhpur Park. Some years have been more traditionally themed than others, and the themes have been numerous and varied. The pandal resembles a Shiva temple and in 2019 the theme was created. When it was constructed, ash was employed as a metaphor for rebirth and the birth of something new.
Location: South Kolkata. The pandal is at Jadavpur Thana, Jodhpur Park, just off Gariahat Road South. (Jodhpur Park is close to Gariahat and Dhakuria). The nearest railway station is Dhakuria.
8. College Square:
After seeing enough tradition in North Calcutta and theme puja in South Calcutta, let us move to the serene Central Kolkata where the beauty of art and architecture is seen. One of the best in Central Kolkata is College Square. College Square was built in 1948 and is situated next to a lake. For the festival, the entire area is illuminated. To witness the shimmering lights and their reflection in the water, the throng gathers at this pandal, as is only natural. There is also a unique Kumari Puja held.
Location: Central Kolkata, 53 College St. Off MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road, close to the University of Kolkata. Mahatma Gandhi Road and Central Metro are the closest railroad stations.
9. Santosh Mitra Square:
Santosh Mitra Square, formerly known as "Sealdah Sarbojanin Durgotsav," is one of Kolkata's largest and most impressive pandals. It was renamed in 1996. It gained notoriety the next year with a particularly original theme and has remained incredibly well-liked ever since. It is recognised for its outstanding artwork. You can count on being astounded!
Location: The Bow Bazaar neighbourhood in Central Kolkata. It's close to Sealdah railway station and off BB Ganguly Street. Central is the closest Metro station.
10. Mohammad Ali Park:
This pandal is situated in a sizable park, as its name would imply. It is another well-known attraction with a lavish display showcasing the stunning design of monuments and temples. The Puja was established in 1969, and the idol has an enduringly ethereal appearance.
Location: Central Kolkata