Durga Puja in Kolkata is one of the key cultural experiences that one should not miss out on!
Eat, pray, love! 5 things to do while visiting Kolkata during Durga Puja 2022
Shining BD Desk || Shining BD
Come September 26 and the 10-day festival of Navratri and Dusshera begins all over India. In the eastern states of India, the festival is more popularly celebrated as Durga Puja. West Bengal and especially its capital Kolkata are famous for the large-scale, opulent pujas that attract people from all over the country. And not just in the country, but even globally, Kolkata's Durga puja pandals and the celebrations are famous. In recognition of this, in 2021, UNESCO recognised 'Durga Puja in Kolkata' and it was inscribed in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
This is surely an experience to be savoured and planning a trip to Kolkata during the pujas can lead to a memorable experience. Gorging on yummy food, praying to Goddess Durga, pandal hopping, and loving every bit of the festivities - this is the essence of Durga puja!
Here are 5 things to do when you visit Kolkata during Durga puja:
1) Go for pandal hopping
This is but obvious and the most important part of your puja experience! Yes, there will be crowds and it will most likely be hot and humid, but pandal hopping is a must when you visit Kolkata during Puja. Wear comfortable shoes because you might have to walk long distances and stand in a queue to get a darshan of the idols and the magnificent pandals.
Tip: If you want to avoid the crowd, try early morning visits. You can even start at 4 am. Yes, the city doesn't sleep for these 5-6 days!
2) Taste of 'Bonedi bari' puja (Old family pujas)
This is how the old families of aristocratic households celebrate the puja and it's a thing not to be missed. Unlike the commercialisations and innovations of the glamorous and glitzy pujas of the famous pandals, these aristocratic families continue with their century-old traditions and celebrate Goddess Durga. There are some 200 odd such families in Kolkata and many follow unique customs.
Tip: If you want to visit the oldest household Pujo, head to South Kolkata's Barisha. The puja of Sabarna Roy Choudhury family reportedly dates back to 1610. Some other famous bonedi bari puja include those at Sovabazar Rajbari, Jorasanko Daw Bari, Laha Bari, Rani Rashmoni Bari among others.
3) Eat, eat and eat some more!
Durga Puja is more than a puja, it's a celebration of a way of life, a coming together of people cutting all barriers of class, caste and even religion. For the bhojan-rasik (food-loving) Bengalis, no celebration is complete without great food. From street foods, and sweets to eating out at the city's famous restros, the days of puja are a gastronomic delight for the people of the City of Joy. So if you are visiting the place during puja, join in and savour the beautiful flavours the city has to offer. Unlike popular perceptions, there are tonnes of options for vegetarians too!
Tip: Don't miss out on puchka (their take on the gol gappa or pani puri), jhal muri (puffed rice with special spices) and the famous Kolkata roll! But the list is endless and you can choose from a wide range of options.
4) The wonderous lights
The whole city lights up and there are unique light installations across the city. Not just the pandals and pujas, watching this light-play in itself is a beautiful experience.
5) Take part in Dashami festivities
Bollywood might have over-glamourised the red and white sari look on Vijay Dashami (Dusshera), nevertheless, the day when Bengalis bid goodbye to Ma Durga, is an experience to be lived.