Durga puja, the biggest carnival in the world and declared as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, in 2021, is the perfect amalgamation of what Kolkata and Bengal stands for; a socio-cultural melting pot, where people from different demographics, irrespective of their religious beliefs, ethnicity, education or fiscal abilities, come together to participate in the festivities.
It symbolizes the triumph of good vs evil and commemorates the victory of goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishasura. Celebrated over 5 days, Durga puja is also the richest carnival in the world. According to estimates, the economic impact of these celebrations was worth over Rs. 30,000 crores (approximately USD$ 4bn) before the pandemic struck. This year one can expect revenge celebrations, with people flocking out in greater numbers to make up for lost ground due to the pandemic.
What makes Durga puja such a massive event?
While rituals remain as the corner stone, social interactions are what makes this such a remarkable event. The food, décor and most important, the sheer grandeur of the deity can take one’s breath away.
Food: From road side eateries to 5 star hotels, the variety and quality of food is simply amazing. Bengal loves its food and eateries conduct brisk business throughout the night, keeping revelers well fed, as they move from one location to another.
Decor: Stunning pandals and lighting are a sight to behold, with a number of themes based on social issues or events witnessed over the past year. The artistry of local craftsmen and women are unmatched and globally acknowledged.
Majesty of the Deity: Artists create the goddesses with their hands using clay from the bed of the river Ganges and its tributary the river Hooghly. There are two key locations in Kolkata, namely Kumartoli and Potua Para where these idols are created. Both are a tourist attraction, especially in the months leading up to the festive season.
The unsung superstars of Durga puja are the law enforcement officers. Working tirelessly and managing crowds of several hundred thousand every day, these uniformed men and women ensure that nothing untoward happens. They are the true spirit of Durga puja.
Durga puja is special, there is nothing like it in the world.
It is simply a celebration of life.
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