5 Reasons to Visit Kolkata for Durga Pooja
Kolkata is undoubtedly one of the most charming big cities in India. But come Durga Puja, and it transforms into the most beautiful vibrant celebration of life. To be in Kolkata during Durga Puja is to experience joy in all its vibrant hues. It is no wonder that tourists from around the world flock to the city to bask in it. Without a doubt, Durga Puja is the best time to visit Kolkata. However, if you still need a reason to visit Kolkata for Durga Puja, here are five.
The Puja in Kolkata is known for its fanfare, festivities, and grand scale. During this time, the city becomes a culturally rich milieu of art, tradition, food, music, dance, costumes, and more. In 2021, UNESCO added the Durga Puja in Kolkata to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Durga Puja is celebrated over a period of 5 days in honour of Goddess Durga. The festivities technically begin on the sixth day but the pandals are ready for people to visit from 3rd or 4rd day itself. However, for a better glimpse of the festival, it is ideal if you travel to Kolkata a few days in advance. That way, you will be able to get a glimpse into the ongoing preparations and the building enthusiasm. From artists giving finishing touches to the statues of the Goddess to people prepping their homes for celebrations - these preparatory scenes will bring you closer to the spirit of the festival.
On the seventh day, the presence of the Goddess is ceremoniously invoked with a bathing ritual of the Kola Bou, literally, the banana bride. The ceremony begins before dawn when people carry the banana tree to the river banks to bathe her. The tree is then transformed into a bride by draping her in a white saree with red borders and smearing vermillion on the leaves. Kola Bou is believed to be symbolic of the goddess herself, carrying her divine energy.
There are many interpretations and rituals associated with the Kola Bou bath, each one more interesting than the other. You see people gathered at river banks, bathing the ‘banana bride,’ you hear the beats of dhak as traditional drummers amplify the enthusiasm, and later the banana tree goddess is carried away as a bride in a palanquin with much fanfare. Visit Bagh Bazaar, Ahiritola, and Prinsep ghats to witness the ceremony.
One of the festival's biggest highlights, pandal hopping, is a must if you visit Kolkata during Durga Puja. It is going to be crowded as people from all over the state flock to Kolkata to witness the grandeur. Yet it is worth it, as these theme-based pandals provide some of the most stunning festive sights.
The sheer scale and artistry of every Durga Pooja pandal in Kolkata are breathtaking. Each theme is unique, creative, and relevant. Some of the best places to visit in Kolkata during Durga Puja include College Square, Bagbazar, Mohammad Ali Park, and Ekdalia Evergreen.
The Durga Puja celebrations that take place in Kolkata’s 200-odd traditional households, have prevailed for the last 150 to 400 years. The sprawling mansions of affluent aristocratic zamindar families may speak of an era gone by, but the grandeur of the Bonedi Bari Puja that takes place there is very much alive. It continues to retain the old flavor even today, with the freshly painted thakur dalan (public courtyard where the puja takes place), pillars, chandeliers, and beautifully adorned idols of the Goddess Durga.
The Bonedi Bari Pujas happen across several parts of the city. They also occur in many major towns of West Bengal, such as Durgapur, Birbhum, Cooch Behar, Bankura, Siliguri, and Jalpaiguri. Behala Jagat Ram Mukherjee Durga Puja, Rani Rashmoni Bari, Pathuriaghata Khelat Ghosh Durga Puja, and Sovabazar Raj Bari are some of the more well-known Bonedi Bari locations to attend the Bonedi Bari Durga Puja.
Kolkata’s passionate love affair with food is well-known. But Durga Puja drives the city’s culinary scene into a frenzy you cannot miss. From streetside biryani stalls and kathi rolls to the elaborate spreads in Kolkata’s top-notch restaurants, the variety is limitless. With each delicacy more enjoyable than the other, you will find yourself immersed in a gastronomical adventure.
While you are pandal hopping, remember to eat the bhog - something that is commonly served to visitors at the pandals. It is a plateful of delightful food items like khichuri, labra (spicy mixed vegetables), bhaja (fritters), chutney, and payesh (kheer). If you get hungry again, you can always refuel with the world-famous puchkas. The Kolkata chicken biryani, kathi rolls, chelo kebabs, and momos lead the endless list of lip-smacking street food items. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more sophisticated version of the fanfare visit high end restaurants like JW Marriott, Kolkata, Ibis Kolkata Rajarhat, ITC Hotels, Kareem’s Kolkata, The Lalit Great Eastern, and more.
You will never find yourself out of options during Durga Puja in Kolkata. The more you explore, the more there is to enjoy and celebrate. Plan to stay for at least a week so that you don’t miss out on any big must-dos on your list. Durga Puja is certainly the best time to visit Kolkata.