Durga Puja is the holiday to top them all in Kolkata! With four straight days off from work and 3 other fellows in town visiting, we were determined to see as many pandals as possible (final count: over 40). Think of it as going to see Christmas lights, except times 1000.
Pandals are meticulously designed and beautifully hand-crafted pavilions that serve as temporary homes for the goddess Durga and her company of cohorts. Ranging in size from small neighborhood designs to enormous award-winning constructions, each pandal was a unique and beautiful work of art. The amount of time and money spent on some was incredible; it was difficult to imagine that they’d all be disassembled after a few short days of enjoyment.
Pandal-hopping is the activity of choice so with our trusty map we spent the evenings searching for the biggest and brightest pandals, hoping that the lines would be short and the crowds manageable. Cyclone Phailin brought a bit of rain that kept some indoors, but not us!
On the fourth day, all of the Durga idols are transported by truckloads of people for immersion in the Hooghly River. My only regret from the whole weekend was that I didn’t climb in our neighborhood truck and join the party to the river. After being interviewed about our perspective on Durga Puja as foreigners living in Kolkata (by people with cameras that claimed to be local TV news), we watched immersion from Babu Ghat. It came complete with a crane to pull the idols out of the river at the end.