If you are live outside of Kolkata, there is no better time to visit Kolkata than Durga Puja. Every locality is decked up beautifully. Durga Puja is a festival of rituals, culture, art and so much more! There are only four days to celebrate this festival, and it can get a little confusing at times about what to do so that you can enjoy it to the fullest! Here are the top things to do in Kolkata during Durga Puja:
You can see the idols of Goddess Durga being handcrafted at Kumurtuli in North Kolkata. The area was settled by a group of potters and now, more than 150 potter families live there. If you go there on Mahalaya, you’ll be able to see the eyes being drawn onto the idols in an auspicious ritual called Chokkhu Daan.
While shopping before Durga Pujo, we all buy more traditional clothes than other attires! Durga Puja is all about dressing up in traditional outfits. For women, it’s saree and it’s dhoti-kurta for men. Ashtami is incomplete without wearing white sarees with attractive red borders while men can pick from a variety of colorful kurtas.
Maha Saptami starts with a ritual called the Nabapatrika or the Kola Bou Snan. A small banana plant, symbolizing the wife of Ganesha, is wrapped in a red-bordered saree and bathed in the Ganges river. The best places to attend the ritual are Prinsep, Bagh Bazaar, and Ahiritola ghats. It’s a beautiful sight to watch and photograph!
The highlight of Durga Puja is undoubtedly visiting the many different displays or pandals of Goddess Durga, each with a unique theme or decorative style. This activity is commonly referred to a “pandal hopping”. Pandal hopping requires a bit of strategic planning as they’re spread out all over the city. The most popular time for pandal hopping is in the night when they’re lit up. If you go during the day, you can avoid much of the crowd.
Kolkata is known for its famous street food. Durga Puja is when thousands of big and small eateries sprout up on street corners and pavements, offering a variety of lip-smacking delights. Egg rolls are a major favorite for residents along with other options like fish fry, noodles, chicken/egg chops, kachauris, jalebis, ghugni, shingara and lots more. Oh and yes, do not forget to sample the humble yet powerful puchka – Kolkata’s unofficial 8th wonder of the world! For your dose of authentic Bengali cuisine, try 6 Ballygunge Place or Bhojohori Manna, or even Kasturi. Bohemian is your go-to destination for fusion food like Malpua cheesecake and Gondhoraj Souffle. You can also visit Chinatown which is a food hub in itself at Tangra or romance delicious Chinese, Oriental and Continental dishes at restaurants in and around Park Street. Some names like Mocambo, Peter Cat, Bar B Q, or Olypub carry with their slices of the city’s rich cultural history as well! If you’re a Biryani lover, well Arsalan, Rahmania and Aminia are worth visiting!
This is a very special part of the celebrations. Dhunuchi Naach is performed usually on Ashtami and Navami evenings after aarti. People dress up and dance to the beats of the dhak with dhunuchi or clay pots filled with coconut husks, powdered incense, and camphor. You can participate too and it is definitely really fun!
If you are a married woman, you can participate in this ritual! On Dashami, the goddess is bid farewell before being taken out for immersion in the river. During Sindur Khela, married women offer vermillion and sweets to the goddess. After that, they smear each other with the vermillion. It’s a happy sight to behold.
“Aasche bochor abar hobe!” (It’ll happen again next year!). On the last day of Durga Puja, known as Dashami, the festivities commence with Sindur Khela. In the evening, the idols are immersed in the water. One of the most popular immersion points is Babu Ghat (centrally located near Eden Garden), although you’ll be able to catch the action at any of the ghats along the river. An excellent way of seeing it is by boat. West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation conducts special immersion boat cruises down the river. Otherwise, head to Red Road, which cuts through the Maidan, to watch the Durga idols being taken in procession to the ghat.