Fluffy clouds, clear blue skies, and the construction of temporary ‘pandals’ are enough to indicate the arrival of Durga Puja. Bright twinkling lights, fragrant flowers, and colorful drapes adorn the city during these days. A vibrant 5-day festival, Kolkata’s Durga Puja recently received the title of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Jaya Travel is here with a concise guide to help you experience the magic of Durga Puja in the state of West Bengal, India.
Table of Contents
The Story Behind Durga Puja
Durga Puja commemorates the goddess Durga’s victory over the beast demon Mahishasura. Devi (Goddess) Durga had been summoned by the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to fight the demon who had set out to destroy the universe, according to folklore. Each of the great Hindu gods offered her weapons and other artifacts to help triumph in the battle.
Devi rode into combat on a lion’s back and defeated the demon on the ninth day of the war. Navratri honors the nine days of the war between good and evil. Durga Puja is only celebrated on the last five days when Devi Durga leaves her heavenly abode to visit Earth each year. The five days of this celebration are called Shoshti, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami.
In the year 2023, the festival will be held from October 20, 2023, to Tuesday, October 24, 2023.
In the year 2024, Durga Puja will fall on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2024, to Sunday, Oct 13, 2024.
Pandal Hopping - The Crucial Component
The “pandal,” a makeshift pavilion and place of worship, is at the heart of the Durga Puja celebration. Every year, the city gives more than 1,000 permits for pandals in public spaces across Kolkata.
These temporary temples are home to clay and bamboo sculptures of Goddess Durga wrapped in exquisite fabrics. During the festival, people wear their brand-new clothes and travel from pandal to pandal. People continue admiring the dazzling array of fairy lights and decor – a pastime known as “pandal hopping.”
People usually visit different pandals in North Kolkata and South Kolkata over five days.
There are two kinds of Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata. While the essence is same for both, it’s the organizing party that differentiates between the two.
Bonedi Bari Puja is a traditional style of Durga Puja celebration. “Bonedi” means “old” or “ancestral,” while “Bari” means “house.” In this context, Bonedi Bari Puja refers to Durga Puja, which is celebrated by aristocratic and wealthy families. These pujas have been going on for generations, some of them for more than 100 years.
Barowari Durga Puja, commonly known as Barowari Puja, is a unique way of celebrating Durga Puja. “Barowari” translates to “belonging to twelve (or more) friends” in Bengali. The community-driven nature of Barowari Durga Puja distinguishes it as a prominent cultural celebration in Bengal.
Best North Kolkata Pandals
Ahiritola Sarbojanin Durgotsav
This prominent Durga Puja organization at Kumartuli Park is on everyone’s pandal hopping itinerary for its classical theme and musical spectacular. Since 1940, it’s drawn hundreds of people from all around the city to watch the creative and colorful framework and sway to the beats of dhak.
The pandal provides classical and western musical and dancing programs, as well as a variety of social activities.
Baghbazar Sarbojanin Durgotsav
Baghbazar Sarbojanin Durgotsav, one of the most renowned and oldest Durga Pujas in north Kolkata, is over a century old, with its traditional idol drawing a large crowd. Every year, the idol is constructed with the precise same design, color, and construction.
They concentrate on refining the ekchala pratima, in which Goddess Durga and her sons and daughters are shown against a single backdrop.
Kumartuli Park Puja Pandal
The Kumartuli Park Puja, located near the Sovabazar ferry ghat, is one of the most notable pandals in the area. They’ve been celebrating Durga puja since 1992, and this year marks the 30th year of their celebration. The puja here is a blend of artistry and old-world majesty.
Deities created by Kumartuli artists are also exported for Durga Pujas celebrated overseas.
Santosh Mitra Square Sarbojanin Durgotsav
This Durga Puja pandal, one of the largest and oldest in north Kolkata, was founded in 1936 and is about 80 years old. The organizers develop several themes depending on current events.
In 2017, the pandal captured everyone’s attention with the theme of London. Goddess Durga posed against the backdrop of Buckingham Palace.
Lesser Know Pujas
While these are some of the most popular Durga Puja celebrations in North Kolkata, there is another way to experience the magic of this festival minus the crowd. Every alleyway has at least one pandal celebrating this festival. To see Puja’s beauty without the crowds, go to Sodepure, a small town in North Kolkata.
Shashivilla, a majestic villa in Sodepure, is home to a 150-year-old tradition: the treasured Bonedi Bari Pujo. This annual ceremony is celebrated with steadfast dedication by the Choudhury family who have kept the embers of tradition alive. The celebration links the cultural heritage from Bangladesh to India after the Bengal partition.
Best South Kolkata Pandals
Sreebhumi Sporting Club
Known for its unique themes, the Sreebhumi Sporting Club celebrated its 50th year last year with its unique ‘Vatican theme.’ This year, a footfall of over thousands have been predicted with the theme of the pandal being ‘Disneyland’. The Goddess will be seen inside the magnificent Disney castle this year.
Ekdalia Evergreen, Gariahat
The Ekdalia Evergreen Durga Puja is one of Kolkata’s renowned and time-honored Durga Puja celebrations. Held annually in the Ekdalia Evergreen Club in South Kolkata, this puja is steeped in tradition and cultural significance.
Every year, the Ekdalia Evergreen Club creates a gigantic, vivid, and creative pandal, which is usually modeled after temples from across the country. The simplicity of Maa Durga’s idol in the pandal adds to the splendor of the already magnificent setting.
Mudiali Club, Tollygunge
Mudiali Club is one of the oldest Durga Puja venues in South Kolkata. Though the theme varies from year to year, the traditional idol “Daker Sajji” (white sponge wood ornaments) remains constant. Pandal Lighting is the showstopper of the celebration.
Tips For Pandal Hopping
While pandal hopping is enjoyable, the heat and crowd can take away from the experience. Follow these tips for a less tiresome and more fun Durga Puja experience.
- Plan Your Route: Plan your pandal hopping route ahead of time. To see more Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata, it’s important to plan well and have a strategy. This is because the pandals are spread across the city. By doing so, you can make the most of your time.
- Comfortable Attire and Footwear: Wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes because you will most likely be on your feet for a lengthy period. Given the religious character of the ceremony, it’s also a good idea to dress modestly and politely.
- Travel Light: Carry only the necessities, such as a small backpack with water, snacks, and any other necessary supplies. Large bags can be difficult to carry in crowded places, so reduce your items to a minimum.
- Respect Local Customs: Respect religious conventions and traditions while enjoying the festivities. Before snapping photos, seek permission and avoid any disruptive behavior that may upset the devotees or the sacredness of the pandals.
- Explore Local Cuisine: Don’t miss the opportunity to savor the delicious street food and local cuisine available during Durga Puja. From puchka (pani puri) stalls to traditional Bengali sweets, indulge in the flavors of Kolkata while you explore. However, opt for only the cleaner stalls to avoid stomach issues later on.
Book Your Kolkata Trip With Jaya Travel!
Remember to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, take in the stunning pandal decorations, and enjoy the cultural performances. Durga Puja is not only a religious festival but also a celebration of art, culture, and community in Kolkata.
Contact Jaya to book your next trip to Kolkata at affordable rates and experience the magic of Durga Puja.