Kolkata: October 14: With “cotton-ball” clouds floating in the blue sky, the beat of Dhak (drums) mixed with popular melodies filling the air, and frenzied last-minute shopping, Bengal looks set to indulge itself in the state’s biggest festival – Durga Puja – from Monday.
It is that time of the year when festivity, merriment and religiosity take over, and roads are choked with human traffic throughout the day – and night.
Be it the kids excited about their first pandal-hopping, teenagers decked-up in brand-new clothes or the artisans and craftsmen busy applying final touches to the Durga idols, everyone has a sparkle of happiness in their eyes as the five-day festivity truly transcends the barriers of religion and transforms into a celebration of life.
The streets are decorated with lights, colourful billboards and giant entry gates of different community pujas. Shops – big or small – look busy and the restaurants welcome the gastronomes with mouth-watering dishes, including special Bengali platters.
Ignoring the forecast of heavy rains, that were likely after a cyclone hit the neighbouring state of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh last week, thousands hit the streets on Saturday and Sunday to partake of the festive spirit a little ahead of schedule.
Security in the cities and suburbs has been bolstered with the installation of CCTV camera watchtowers. Extra security personnel have been deployed to prevent any breach of peace, and to control the rush and man the traffic.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children – Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati – descends on the Earth every year to visit her parents to fight evil. This is the occasion that the puja celebrates.
Durga, the slayer of the demon Mahishasur, comes astride her lion and wields an array of weapons in her 10 hands in a symbolic representation of “Shakti”, or woman power.
The puja rituals begin on Monday — “Shashthi” or the sixth lunar day – and culminate on “Dashami” (Dussehra) when the idols are immersed in rivers and other water bodies.
Around 28,000 community pujas are being organised across the state, with the Mamata Banerjee government giving a generous grant of Rs 10,000 to each of them.
Like every year, a number of major community pujas in Kolkata are set to mesmerise the visitors with their uniqueness of theme, decoration and aesthetics of the idols.
While the theme of an old community puja in north Kolkata pays tribute to the sex workers and demands social rights for them, a famous south Kolkata puja built the marquee to pay tributes to and celebrate the visually-impaired.
A puja in the city’s eastern suburbs, considered to be a major crowd-puller for many years, has recreated Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh Fort of queen Padmavati. Another new puja in the vicinity is set to surprise the visitors with the marquee themed upon the evolution of radio and music systems.
A popular puja in the posh satellite township of Salt Lake has tied up with the Chinese consulate in the city to create a slice of authentic China at the puja premises, bringing in 25 Chinese artisans and performers.
Increasing in number each year, the individual pujas in various apartments and building blocks across Kolkata are also ready with their own set of cultural functions and contests for the residents.