Durga Puja: With Dhak, Alpona And Adda, Devotees welcome Mahishasura Mardini

New Delhi: When the cool and serene breeze of autumn becomes ubiquitous in the milieu, when fields across the country get filled with Kash flowers and sky turns red in the evening, it is for the one to believe that the countdown for Durga Puja has begun.

If Maharashtra is famous for Ganesh Chaturthi, Delhi for Diwali and Assam for Bihu then the festival of Durga Puja can be termed as the synonym of every Bengali all across the globe. Grandeur Pandal hopping, tasting mouth-watering food, gulping golgappas, witnessing gorgeous idols, spending quality times with family is what Durga Puja means for every Bengali.

The preparations of Durga Pandals begin almost 4-5 months prior to the festival, bamboos are being seen piled up on the streets, decorators dedicate days to execute the best in their kitty. Each Pandal has something unique and different for the audience to witness. From using plastic straws to mustard seeds, craftsmen come up with ideas that would make their pandal a masterpiece.

Then comes shopping. During Durga Puja, there is a tradition of presenting new clothes to the family members. It is believed that by doing so prosperity will prevail throughout the year. Apparel owners get themselves prepared and keep an adequate stock of new clothes as they expect heavy footfalls during these days.

Marketing freaks hop from one shop to another to select the best dress that would make them standout from the crowd. However, after the introduction of online shopping, the craze of cloth buying from the market has gone down drastically.

There is no denial that the excitement of Durga Puja begins way before the festival and by the time the day of ‘Mahalaya’ arrives the enthusiasm crosses all its boundaries.

It is believed that ‘Mahalaya’ is the day when goddess Durga starts her journey to earth (her paternal home). Mahalaya is also known as Akaalbodhan (ultimately invoking the goddess).

On the day of Mahalaya, most of the Bengalis wake up at 4 o clock and listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s soulful chanting of slokas and songs like “Jaago Tumi Jaago”, “Bajlo Tomar alor benu”.

Mahalaya also marks the end of Pitri-paksha, the male descendants of the deceased pray to Goddess Durga in the name of their ancestors. It is considered an auspicious day. The offering is known as ‘Tarpan’. The belief is that if the ancestors are not offered food during this period, their dissatisfied souls remain in the Earth and do not go to heaven.

The real favor of Durga Puja begins on the sixth day, people are seen hopping from one pandal to another to witness the best architectural pandal work and magnificent Durga Idols. People from different parts of the world gather in Kolkata to witness the opulent pandals. Each one of them is built with a concept that differs from the other.

Eatery stalls are being set in every nook and corner of the city where mouthwatering dishes starting from momos to chicken biryani to muton kabab will be served. During these four days, the woman of the house locks their kitchen up and relax.

This is the time of the year when the family member from the different part of the country comes under one single roof. Late night chit chats, having dinner together, spending time with relatives make this festival even more special.

The festival of Durga Puja is not complete without Dhak. Hundreds of ‘dhakis’ or traditional drummers make their way into the city of joy from across rural Bengal. The beat of the ‘dhak’ not only ushers in the arrival of the Goddess, but its rhythm gives shape to the spirit of celebrations.

After nine days of artistic Pandal hopping, delicious bhog, colourful fireworks, and mouth-watering food, comes the day of Vijaya Dasami. On this day, devotees bid adieu to goddess Durga with moist eyes.

On Vijaya Dasami, the idols of goddess Durga are immersed in rivers, ponds, or seas with repeated chants of ‘Abar Kobe? Bochor Pore’ (When will we be celebrating again? After one year).

Story: Victor Dasgupta

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