Like any other year, I was too hyped for Durga Pujo starting with the shopping from the very beginning of the month of October. “Notun jaama” (new clothes) has always been a big deal amongst Bengalis, especially so during our festive time like “Durga Pujo”. Whether they be rich or poor, people gather up all their savings to buy the most beautiful clothes to add to the galore of festivities. Even though the wait seemed endless, pujo was finally knocking at my doorstep with Anandomela which takes place on Panchami.
Anando-mela literally means ‘fair of joy’, is a gathering of people who come around with delicious home made Bengali cuisines and sell it at the nearest pandal. It’s always a fun time to have your most desired Bengali snacks right from Mangsher Ghugni to Fish Cutlets all in one place, surround by other people who are just as thrilled with the arrival of pujo. As the taste of the delicacies still linger in your mouth, its suddenly a new day. Sasti (the sixth day) begins with the ‘bodhon’ of Goddess Durga, wherein it’s said to bring into life the previously still idol. The extravaganza of dhunuchi naach with the resonance of dhaak, kashor, shaakh and the ringing of bells fill the air with the sweet presence of the age old feeling of Pujo.
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No matter how old or young, near or far, this is a feeling one always associates to being home.
As sasti comes to an end and you’re still reviving from the hangover of the beats of the dhaak, it’s time for Saptami (the seventh day). With Saptami comes the ideal time for ‘Pandal Hopping’. It would be an understatement to call it the most fun activity during pujo, because no matter how good a pandal looks or feels to you, there’s always a better one waiting for you next! With a crunch for time this year and juggling between the workload of college assignments and the calling from my very own festival, I managed to do tour a few beautiful, to say the least, pandals in my vicinity.
Ideas for these pandals came from the infamous Bodh Gaya, another one showcased the Maya Civilization (Mesoamerican civilization) and one was even inspired by the Hawa Mahal, in Rajasthan. It is safe to say that the sculptors and the architects left no stone unturned and indeed the end results were mesmerising.
One very crucial part of pandal hopping is the array of food items one can binge on while they are at it. While most places have restaurant chains from Kolkata or special Bengali catering services putting up stalls, one can also find other famous food chains readily at these places.
A foodie at heart, I went ahead and splurged most of my savings into buying the most mouth watering, typical to Bengali, cuisines and foods. I started with the puchka and went ahead to order Mutton Kabiraji cutlet, Fish Orley from the evergreen Bijali Grill. I even went as far as having Mutton Mughlai Paratha and Kosha Mangsho and Luchi all on the same day!
Ashtami (the eighth day)and Navmi (the ninth day) passed by in the blink of an eye. Pushpanjali on these two days is the considered to be the most auspicious, and so a common sight in pandals every morning would be of people all freshly bathed, wearing crisp cotton clothes, and heading to the anjali in large groups.
With not much difference as the rest of pujo, on these days I managed to drape myself in two gorgeous sarees for these special occasions and delved into some serious, heavenly delicacies while being all decked up. Isn’t that what pujo is for anyway?!
Adding more color two this fiesta were the melody of a few famous singers all the way from my hometown. While they sang the words of Rabindranath Tagore, people swayed their heads to the rhythm of the Rabindrasangeet. Some new age bands also performed their hits as the youth cheered in appreciation. It is always a sight to see how both the old and young, rich and poor all come together to the sound of music.
As people walked back home with the reminiscence of the past few days, I could suddenly feel it dawn on me that pujo was coming to an end. Just yesterday I could smell the feast in the air from the Anandomela and tomorrow it is Dashmi (the tenth day), as good defeats evil, once again it is time for Maa to take leave of us. With a little melancholy in my heart, but hope to cover it up I remind myself Aashche Bochhor, Aabar Hobe! as I close the chapter on Durga Pujo 2018.