Durga Puja, the Worship of the Hindu Goddess Durga, Returns to Calcutta, India (part 2)


The Durga Puja (Pujo in Bengali) is celebrated in various parts of India in different styles, but not on the grand scale of the Festival in Calcutta. This year’s celebration will be starting in a few weeks. I attended and photographed Durga Puja in Kolkata in October, 2011.

The days are long. The heat and humidity are oppressive; the crowds, claustrophobic. The sights, sounds, and smells can be overwhelming at times. In spite of and because of the difficult conditions Durga Puja was truly an experience of a life time.

Below is the second part of a two part post.

Click here for part one of this post.

Click here for free Durga Puja computer wallpaper.

Now all of the age old Hindu rites and rituals associated with the Puja begin in earnest. At each pandal a priest is presiding over the pageantry. There is a feeling of loving devotion to Maa Durga as well as joyous celebration. Everyone is dressed in their holiday best. Women are wearing the most beautiful saris imaginable while showing off their gold jewelry.The mood and atmosphere is truly something to behold. Amidst the burning incense the priest’s chanting, dhakis’ drumming, and the bell ringing all seem to be perfectly choreographed. Offerings of food such as fresh fruits, sweets, rice, and ghee are made. Durga holds a lotus blossom, marigold garlands are hung from her neck, rose petals are thrown at her feet. Throngs of people brave the heat and congestion to visit as many pandals as they possible can.

Dashami is the last day of Durga Puja, when a tearful farewell is offered to the deity as she is entreated to return to her celestial home and to return again next year. The married ladies smear Her with vermillion(sindoor) and offer sweets, and beetle-leaf(paan). Then women paint each other with vermillion and share the sweets.

Finally Durga and her entourage are brought by truck or rickshaw with much fanfare to the various ghats along the Hougly River for immersion. Upon reaching the ghat the idols are carried to the water and turned around an uneven number of times and then while facing the bank are immersed with the beat of the dhaks and blowing of conch shells.