Durga Puja, Celebrations and Calcutta

Come to Calcutta in Saratkaal (not really Autumn, but in between the monsoon and the autumn) with the sparkling azure skies with the fluffiest white clouds cruising, a light breeze, and the greenery-turned-white with the gently swaying kash phool

This is the time when Maa Durga comes home.

Come to Bengal when Maa (mother) Durga, the Shakti (power) form of Parvati, Lord Shiva’s wife comes to her parents’ home (father, Himalaya and mother, Maneka) with her four children, Ganesha, Saraswati, Laxmi, Kartikeya.

Maa Durga had originally been invoked and worshipped in Saratkal by Lord Rama in the great Indian epic, Ramayana before he waged war on Ravana, the King of Lanka to free his wife, Sita. It is known as Akaalbodhan (worshipping in a different time).

Maa Durga (the “invincible”) symbolises strength and the triumph over evil. Also known as Mahishasuromordini, Goddess Durga defeated Mahisasur, the asura (demon) in guise of a buffalo (mahish), who was till then undefeated by any man or God.

The Goddess is depicted with ten hands holding ten weapons given to her by the Gods to fight the asura, riding on the lion (baahan). On her right stands Laxmi and Ganesha with their respective baahan- the owl and the mouse. On her left stands Saraswati and Kartikeya riding on a swan and a peacock respectively.

Worshipping of Goddess Durga is the celebration of strength, courage, fearlessness and patience. And it is done in Calcutta with style.

Mahalaya is the first new moon in Saratkal, in the month of Ashwin. From then starts the Devipokkha (the time of the Goddess). The pujas (worshipping) start on the MahaShosthi (sixth day after full moon) through MahaSaptami (the seventh day after), MahaAshtami (the eighth day after), MahaNabami (the ninth day after) till MahaDoshomi (the tenth day after), which is also known as MahaBijaya or Dussera that also signifies the day Lord Rama triumphed over Ravana besides being the last day of worship. (Maha signifies ‘grand’) 

For us, the Bengalis and Calcuttans in general, this is the festival of the year. And the longest holiday. In Bengali year 1416 (English 2009), there were over 3000 pujas in Calcutta alone, excluding the private pujas at homes. Not just the puja itself, Calcutta is famous for its wondrous and innovative pandals (temporary structures for religious festivals) and the beautiful protimaa (idols) usually made of clay. Kumortuli is famous world-wide for its intricate workmanship and the exquisite clay-idols.

Pandal-hopping is all the rage in here. The city is also completely lighted up for the whole week. No one stays at home, everyone from and outside the city celebrate. The footfall at several pandals crosses lakhs. The pujas are also incomplete without the dhakis and dhunuchhi naach. The dhakis (plays the musical instrument ‘dhak‘) kick up a rythymic beat, the sound of which has one and all dancing (See a video here). Then there are the dhaker lorai, which is the dhak-playing competition usually between two separate pujasDhunuchhi naach is a difficult and exiciting dance with burning dhoona in a vessel in hand (See the videos here and here). There is even a certain smell of the pujas, incense sticks  mingled with the fragnance of flowers and dhoona, the feel of the pujas are in the air.

Pandal hopping in our new clothes, in this festival of happiness, all and any distinctions cease to exist as the city dresses in gaiety and dances in merriment. This is the time for family, and friends, old and new. The city ceases to sleep for the four days.   


Bodhon (the inaugration of the worship) is done on Shosthi, consisting mainly of boron (welcome) of Maa. The pujas are performed by purohits (priests), who are the Hindu Brahmins.
This year people had started going around pandals from Chathurthi (the fourth day after new moon). We started on Panchami (the fifth day after). On MahaShosthi, we had a whole night plan with family and friends. It had rained in the morning but the rains couldn’t dampen the spirit of the Festival. We started at 8 PM and got back home at 5:30 in the morning. 


The actual pujas (worshipping rituals) start on this day. Pran Protistha (establishing the spirit in the clay idol) marks the beginning of the puja. It starts with kalabou snan. Kalabou is usually said to be the wife of Ganesha but actually is another form of Goddess Durga. On each day of the puja there is aarati, worshipping the Goddess with fire mainly, and bhog (food that has been offered to the Goddess first) for the people. The four other Gods and Goddesses, Maa Durga’s sons and daughters are also worshipped. 
We had another late night on Saptami.


This is the main day/time (khon) of the pujas. This is the day when everbody takes part in pusphanjali (offering of flowers) usually the first thing in the morning, as it is supposed to be done before eating breakfast. We also take charanamrita, which is water mixed with milk, curd mainly, very sweet-tasting, offered to the Goddess and usually rests at her feet. Many people also offer pujas in the name of their families, for Maa to bless them.
Also the main day of celebration, most people take bhog on this day. We usually wear our best new dresses on this day. Women will be most seen in sarees and the men in panjabi-chosth, if not, dhotis.
On this day, there was less of pandal-hopping and more of adda with friends and family.


MahaNabami starts with sondhi puja (the time change from Ashtami to Nabami). This is the final day of the pujas. The puja of Goddess Durga cannot be done without 108 half-bloom lotus. It is said, that Lord Rama had one lotus short while performing the puja, so he tried to cut out his beautiful lotus-shaped eye to offer as the last lotus, when Maa Durga had stopped him.
Several prizes are given out to the best pandals, best protimaa in Calcutta. It rained again but everyone was out with their umbrellas. The whole day was spent looking up those prize-winning pujas, and also spent with old friends.


MahaDashami or MahaBijaya or Dussera is the last day of the pujas, the day on which Lord Rama defeated Ravana. This day is a national holiday and celebrated with joy all over India. 
Bijaya means ‘victory’. On this day, mainly the Bengalis touch the feet of their elders for blessings, and everybody eats sweets (mithai) celebrating the Bijaya. Usually we wish each other, “Subho Bijaya“, subho meaning ‘good’. Also, the married ladies take part in sindoor khela, that is they apply vermilion on each others’ faces and foreheads, after applying the same to the Goddess. 
In other parts of India, Dussera is celebrated with delight by the burning of the idol of Ravana. For us, it is a day of mixed feelings for it is the time for bishorjon, that is, the Goddess leaves the idol, and goes back to her husband’s home to Kailasa from Earth, symbolised by the immersion of the idol of Maa Durga in the Ganges river. 


The pandals were diverse and the workmanship, awesome- an imaginary temple in the heart of Himalays (Notundal, Behala), a giant mushroom (Shristi-Sahajatri, Behala), pagoda (Lake Town Adhibasi Brindo), Nepal (Tridhara), pandal made out of baskets (Bharat Chakra, Dumdum Park), of banana tree barks (Shibmandir), of dolls (Lalbagan Nabankur) and several other innovative ones were there, like every year. And intricate sculptures are a part of almost every pandal. It is difficult to recognise the city during this time. The pandals were however very difficult to photograph, as without an eagle’s eye view, the perspective is lost.

Here are a few glimpses of the Festival in Calcutta 2009.

I am sharing few of the best pictures of the idols and some pandals that I could manage.

1. Telengabagan in North Calcutta

2. Nalini Sarkar Street, North Calcutta

3. The pandal at Kaashi Bose Lane, North Calcutta, made of glass and mirrors
4. Kaashi Bose Lane, North Calcutta

5. Darponarayan, North Calcutta

6. Pathuriyaghata Paancher Palli, North Calcutta

7. Shobhabajaar, North Calcutta 

8. Ahiritola Sarbojanin, North Calcutta

9. Behala Club, South Calcutta

10. Shristi-Sahajatri, Behala, South Calcutta 

11. Naktala Udoyon Sangha, South Calcutta

12. Near Southern Avenue, South Calcutta 

13. The ceiling of the pandal in Mudiali, South Calcutta

14. Samajsebi, South Calcutta

15. Ballygunge Cultural Association, South Calcutta

15. Santoshpur, South Calcutta 

16. Rajdanga, South Calcutta 

17. Lalbagan, North Calcutta

18. The best protimaa (idol) according to me, Chaltabagan, North Calcutta

19. My famous para-puja (locality puja)… Calcuttans, guess which?

20. Close-up of the same puja

21. Calcutta’s finest managing the crowd in Central Avenue. Just a small glimpse. Hats off to them, working 24*7 in this time of celebrations.

22. MahaAshtami morning Pushpanjali (cell-phone camera)

23. The puja on MahaAshtami (cell-phone camera)

24.The puja. Invoking Agni, the God of fire.
25. The puja 

26. The Aarati

Durga Puja is celebrated nowadays not only in Bengal or India but throughout the world. The joy is infectious and the happiness incomparable. These four days, all worries, all sorrows are forgotten as the old and the young alike celebrate the all perseverance of the good. The end of the Festival always brings nostalgia at the days that passed by so swiftly, but also brings hope. And that hope says, Maa will be back next year again… “Aschhe bochhor abar hobe!!!”

*Subho Bijoya* 

For more photographs of other great protimaas and pandals of Calcutta 2009, you can check Indian Pundit‘s (a blogger buddy) collection at Live the Dream : Maa Durga:The Ultimate Goddess-Part-1 and Maa Durga:The Ultimate Goddess and Great Pandals-Part-2

You can also check another fellow blogger-friend rimz‘s post at Mind Out with a wonderful description of the Calcutta Pujas in Durga Puja ’09.

N.B. The sources of information are mainly my grandmother, the extensive Bengali dictionary and common knowledge (I asked and clarified with anybody and everybody) G.

About Guria

An Artist in Science: A Misfit 'cause I choose to be one. "Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform" And a Maverick, because, I'm... umm... brilliant?
This entry was posted in Calcutta and Bengali, India, Passions, Photography, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Durga Puja, Celebrations and Calcutta

  1. Shruti says:

    I loved this post! So many informations yaar!!
    I loved the pictures very much!! WOW!!
    You all have a great time eh?!
    I loved it Misfit girl errr….Sreya!


  2. Paritosh says:

    My God!! I feel I know everything there is to know about Durga Puja now. A very informative post.


  3. Neha says:

    amazing clicks…very informative post…

    chk my blog…surprise awaits you there..


  4. Mustaf says:

    First of all, thanks for all those photos, it gave me a quick trip of Durga puja being away from Kolkata. But if you had also posted the pics of the pandals, it would have been ekdum sholo kala purno , enjoyed a lot and thanks for the post 🙂


  5. Vishnu says:

    u jus coudnt elaborate more..nice pics too..


  6. Dhiman says:

    As I said on IP's post I also Thank you for the pictures… having spent most part of conscious years at Kolkata and its pujos it really makes me miss them all the more but like you said “Asche bochor abar hobe” and I hope that asche bochor I am in Kolkata for the pujos… 4 yrs boddo lomba somoy Kolkatar pujo theke dure thakar jonno…
    one more thing I would like to add that the planning and the building of the pandals itself is a very interesting process…. having lived amidst some of the most 'famous' pujos of Kolkata I know what it means …and let me add that when my own para roads used to be overflowed with crowd and I needed known faces in “volunteers” to 'get thru' to get to my home…well truly nothing can compare the Kolkata pujo absolutely nothing…
    PS: A very long comment 😛


  7. HaRy!! says:

    wow thanks for the pics and so relevant explanation!! miss all those stuff back home!..thnkq!


  8. Hey Sreya

    Awesome post.
    Perfectly summed up everything.Well done.Great pics too.
    19. My famous para-puja (locality puja)… Calcuttans, guess which?
    I think its The Maddox Square pujo…..right??

    Also Chaltabagan protima was the best according to me too.



  9. what a wonderfully insightful post dearie. Especially the photographs and description… I thoroguhly enjoyed reading it. well written..

    I enjoyed dushera all over again reading your post. 🙂


  10. Hey..Thank You soo much for this informative one..Loved the pics and even more lovable is ur narration..

    Thank You soo muchh ..


  11. rimz says:

    awesome dear… loved d descriptn n photos too..:)
    grt writing.:)


  12. Shilpa Garg says:

    Cool! A very comprehensive info on Durga Puja!!
    And amazing pandals!!
    Thank you for sharing!! 🙂


  13. Guria says:

    Hey Shruti

    Thank you dear!
    Can't leave a single chance of calling me Misfit huh? 😀
    I'll have to think of some name for YOU!!! 😀

    Hi Paritosh

    Is it really my writing or you are always so free with your praises? 😀

    But I like reading your comments, they go a long way to boost my confidence. 🙂


    Thanks so much, dear!
    Yeah, I'll do that tag… some time! 😀

    Heyy Vishnu

    I could elaborate more but was too tired! Lucky for you! lol…

    Hiya HaRy

    You from Calcutta! Whoa, I am stunned!
    Why on earth are you pacha-fying in UK?? lol…
    (I hope you don't understand Bengali)

    Hi, rimz

    Glad you liked it. See I needed yours to link. all that you wrote I didn't (or couldn't :P)

    Hello Shilpa-ji

    Good have you on MM again! 🙂
    I did not Copy-Paste and tried writing a good informative but enjoyable post. 😀
    So, do I pass? 😀
    I am glad you enjoyed! 🙂

    Love, Guria


  14. Guria says:

    Hey Mustaf

    Welcome to MM 🙂

    I have pictures of pandals but I don't think they are that good. but I'll try to post them.
    I am really glad you enjoyed the pictures and the post.
    Do come back again 🙂

    Hiya Dhiman

    You from Calcutta!!!!(if not a Bengali) Didn't know! 😀
    Chaar bochhor khub-i besi naa thakar kolkatay amr jonyo-o 🙂
    I hope next year you will be able to be here. I am sad thinking, I won't be here next year onwards for at least 5 yrs.
    I liked your long comment. And I know what you mean by help from volunteers to get into your own home, I face the same thing every year except I need help from the police. lol…

    Hi IP

    No points for guessing! 😛
    You already knew it! 😀
    So you did like the post puja “super” post, did you? 😀

    Take care, G.


  15. Guria says:

    Hi Ro

    If you really enjoyed dussera all over again, I;m happy!! 🙂
    When you enjoy it, you make the post special. 🙂

    Hiya Pramoda

    I love seeing your comments on MM. 🙂
    And every time you say, you like my narration, it makes my writing worthwhile.
    Thank you so much 🙂
    I am happy you enjoyed the post! 🙂

    Love, G.


  16. So you did like the post puja “super” post, did you? 😀

    Of course i liked it.Awesome.

    By the way, where is the picture of Goddess Sreya?You did not take it?



  17. Guria says:


    I knew I had forgotten something! I didn't see her anywhere actually, may be she was hiding?? lol…

    By the way, I also did not see the great Pundit anywhere either! 😀



  18. Shruti says:

    Misfit girl thinking a name for me eh?! 😛
    I love calling you Misfit girl rather than sreya or Guria!
    May be you fitted exactly as Misfit girl 🙂


  19. Guria says:

    Shruti 🙂

    I'll tell you a secret. I like it when you call me the Mifit girl Never fails to bring a smile to my face.
    You know I feel so good that I have a fellow blogger cum friend in you! Feels great! Thank you dearie! 🙂

    Love, G. MisFit girl to you! 🙂


  20. Shruti says:

    Whoa,that's too nice 🙂
    I loved your reply!
    You can always count on me my dear Misfit girl 🙂


  21. great post girl.. nice information you gave us.. I had visited pandals and seen durga idols but never knew all this.. I loved 1 &4 the most.. and loved the 3 pandal..it's really awesome.


  22. wow I am really entertained by seeing these pictures, I can only imagine what it would be like to see it in person. You know, to be honest, I always have had visions of Calcutta being some shabby wasteland. It's really good when something like this changes what I think of a place entirely.

    I thought you captured everything pretty well, I especially liked #3. I dated an indian girl before, so I'm just a little bit familiar with the hindu gods, enough to recognize shiva, hah.


  23. interesting…and this is like a good source of information…

    chalo gud hai…aarti mil gayi…in digital form!!! 😀


  24. Antarman says:

    You have a lovely blog ! awesome pics ! loved the 11th most.


  25. Sourav !!! says:

    Guria, I was brought up in Asansol, West Bengal and I know what a pleasent site it is to see Maa coming and those wonderful days ! 🙂

    I stayed in South Kolkata for two years, Lake Gardens and Naktala Udoyon Sangha's Pratima's are the ones' I loved the most !

    Not being there this Pooja, was not such a happy thing to do .. But I appreciate your efforts of almost making me feel there 🙂

    Thank you 🙂


  26. Samadrita says:

    Nice snaps there.I like the whole festive mood but I scarcely go pandal-hopping.In fact I don't like it..standing in long queues feeling all sweaty in new clothes just for a 2 sec-glance at the idol.So totally not worth it.
    Watching puja parikrama on tv with your friends and family seems like a more inviting prospect to me.And another thing that I do is catch up with old school friends during this time. 🙂
    Ah heaven!

    Liked the pictures a lot.Seems like you had a good time.Subho Bijoya! 🙂

    P.S:I bloglisted you! 🙂


  27. Neha says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


  28. Neha says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


  29. Great Pictures! And quite a research done on writing this post.


  30. R S V says:

    I really enjoyed this post puja super post..
    I know its tough to enjoy the feeling of pandaal hopping…but even then it invoked some of my happy memories…
    the time when I was in Guwahati…


  31. R S V says:

    btw did u see take all those pics yourself??


  32. Guria says:

    Hey Rahul 🙂

    Inciting good memories is a good thing! 🙂

    And yup, all the photographs are mine but to have steady hands while jostling turned out to be damn difficult feat 😛
    Still some pics I couldn't leave out. Hope you liked them 🙂


  33. Guria says:

    Hi, Mr. C

    Good to see you here and thanks 🙂
    Actually the pics are not that good, I usually can do better than this. lol…
    But try taking a pic when the crowd's pushing you the other way! 😀

    So you thought of Calcutta as not only as shabby but also a wasteland? 😀
    Well, next I'll post some pics of Calcutta itself. It's beautiful and the people warm. People, outsiders usually fall in love with it very fast.

    But yes, seeing the pujas in Calcutta or anywhere in Bengal is a unique experience, indeed.


  34. Guria says:


    Glad you enjoyed, girl. 🙂


    Happy to pass on the digital aarti 😀


    Welcome to MM. And thank you. Happy that you enjoyed. 🙂


    I know, a lot of us are actually like you. 🙂
    But we enjoy a different aspect of the pujas I guess.
    Glad you enjoyed the pics! Subho Bijoya to you too. 🙂

    Mr. Pramathesh™ Borkotoky

    Not that much research, you've been staying Calcutta for long, you learn these things! 🙂
    Hope you enjoyed the post and pics! 🙂

    Take care, Guria ^_^


  35. pra says:

    very informative post with beautiful pics! I like the idols of Rajdanga and Protima!The pendals are looking so beautiful…


  36. Harini says:

    Loved the post and the blog :).

    Kolkata is the place to be during the Navratri. I have seen no one else celebrate this festival like Bengalis nd its too good. I so wish I can atleast once be in that place when Maa Durga resides there :).

    Once again a great post :).


  37. Guria says:

    Hi pra

    Glad you like the pics… 🙂

    Hi Harini

    Welcome to MM 🙂
    Thanks for the follow.
    I am glad you liked the post and the blog. Thanks so much. 🙂

    Take care, Guria ^_^


  38. Legal Alien says:

    What a beautiful post..made me very nostalgic as I havent been home for the pujas in 3 years. Btw, guess what, I'm a Maddox Square girl too 😉


  39. Debosmita says:

    I stumbled upon your blog from Bog-a-ton and loved it 🙂

    This post is especially special to me, since I can relate to all that you wrote about. I took around some foreigners this year for some pandal hopping and I narrated the exact same story to them! Have blogrolled you so that I can revisit 🙂

    Shubho Bijoya! (a tad belated, though)


  40. Sunny says:

    Hi there, I'm a first timer at your blog and I really liked this post, we don't really celebrate Durga puja at sucha large scale here (Nagpur), and the pics are really very good.

    I'm a gujju and all the emphasis of the navratri is given to the dandiya but surely someday I'll be in Kolkata to see this celebration too.

    P.S.: even I click photos and I write short stories too. Do pay a visit.


  41. Yogesh says:


    I am Yogesh Goel, one from the Amar Durga Puja team. I am here to invite you to participate in the most unique initiative ever on the net on Ma Durga. We have a website AmarDurgaPuja.com and its totally user driven website. We want to bring Ma Durga to everyone's home. Even to people who can't be here during pujas. We want to make everyone feel at home and thats why this website.

    Amar Durga Puja (ADP) is an attempt by FOURDY Group to take Durga Puja to the world by sharing information and photos to help everyone in experiencing the thrill of Durga Puja. To make this happen, we started http://www.amardurgapuja.com in 2009 as a photography competition which received an overwhelming response from the user of various countries like India, Bangladesh, United States, Australia, United Kingdom and many more who showed their love for the festival by submitting 1,000+ photographs within a span of 6 days – making it the largest Durga Puja gallery online. Later, this year we were also recognized by Spanish Magazine – Global Voices (www.globalvoices.org).

    This is a pictorial and video website where users can submit their entire collection and make it seen to the world and also share them. we want to make it a hub which everyone can cherish for life.

    Do visit and make urself a part of this greatest initiative ever.

    our website address is-

    And our facebook page address is-

    Hope to see u participating & contributing soon. Do not forget to tell about this to your friends too.

    Take Care,
    Be well,

    Yogesh Goel
    Amar Durga Puja team
    FOURDY Group


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