Durga Puja in Kolkata!

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.

Subho Bijoya!

 

Thums up and ready to go pandal hopping!
Thums up and ready to go pandal hopping!
Lights guiding our way to the pandals!
Lights guiding our way to the pandals!

 

Park Circus pandal
Park Circus pandal

 

Lighting the puja lamps
Lighting the puja lamps
Typical Durga and company
Typical Durga and company
Heading to the Hooghly River for immersion
Heading to the Hooghly River for immersion

 

 

 

Immersion!
Immersion!
Post immersion : /
Post immersion : /

 

All with good company!
All with good company!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roommates!
Roommates!

Concurrent with her fellowship, Julie is completing the 2nd year of her Master's degree program at Brandeis University in Sustainable International Development. Inspired by the novel Shantaram, Julie's passion for service in India began in 2011 when she served on multiple short term teams to support initiatives in rural southern India. There she helped support community initiatives and capacity building through micro-enterprise efforts with women and teaching English at a local school in rural Tamil Nadu. Prior to that, Julie served in the US Navy in Reactor department on the aircraft carrier, USS George Washington, and in Combat Systems department on the cruiser, USS Bunker Hill. She also taught and trained future Naval officers at the University of Notre Dame's ROTC program. Julie's service to her country and extensive travel abroad have shaped her into a global citizen with the desire to pursue a life of service to others. Through this fellowship, Julie hopes to help provide rural electrification solutions in order to alleviate energy poverty in West Bengal, India.

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3 thoughts on “Durga Puja in Kolkata!

  1. Ah Durga Puja,
    Magical times in Kolkata. Not as elaborate when I was growing up but magical nevertheless. Also times , social networks, co-ed colleges etc now allow lot more contact between the sexes. In the early 60s Durga Puja for us late teens was like going to a community prom. You desperately wished you had a date or will find one in one of the Pandals you visited. As a teenager it was the only time when groups of young girls your age came out without a over-protective chaperone allowing you to at least have a conversation however brief . Getting her to walk to the next Pandal with you made your Pujas and a celebrity among your friends. But reality often tough. Many ” call me maybe” moments, but there was always next year!!!!!
    Sridar

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