“Why is Durga Puja special to Bengalis?”
Has this question ever popped up in your mind?
If yes, then what answers to it did you find?
If no, then let’s take you through a journey of mine,
Though my experience, an answer you will find!
As a north Indian, I had not got the opportunity to visit Kolkata until last year. Prior to my visit, I had the opportunity of meeting dozens of people from Bengal and had been acquainted with them. My interaction with each of them would always include a common topic, Durga Puja! For instance, there was something about these words that I had noticed would bring a special bright gleam in the eyes of all the Bengalis I met at different stages of my life. This would always make me wonder what is it with this puja and Kolkata and why is Durga Puja so special to Bengalis?
Last year, I made up my mind and promised to myself that I would experience what this buzz is all about and decide for myself if it at all deserves the high attention and love it gathers. I asked Deep, my ‘Bengali’ friend here in Mumbai to take me along when he visits home for the puja.
I landed in the city of joy on the night of Panchami (the fifth day out of the ten days of the puja). Although, it might sound exaggerating, I truly could feel and smell festivity in the air of Kolkata. Therefore, to tell the least, the next five days were among the most wonderful, insightful and joyful days of my life. The entire city seemed to be glittering like gold and the whole environment was electrifying and soothing at the same time!
What I noticed from my experience in Kolkata during the Durga Puja is that the people here love their food and some nice conversations. Pandal hopping and Pandal adda were on the to-do list of almost everybody.
I have lost count of the number of pandals we visited during those four-five days. All of them were so artistically designed and beautifully presented that each Pandal left me mesmerized. The dance form called ‘dhunuchi dance’ and various other cultural activities that simultaneously took place during those auspicious days blew my mind. I had always heard and read that people in Bengal are highly inclined towards art but my visit to Kolkata and the pandals of Durga Puja affirmed all that I knew. Another important reason that makes Durga Puja special for Bengalis is Food!
Yes, you read it right. If I wound have to list the most food enthusiastic community or group then Bengalis would undoubtedly top the list. This love of their life remains on full glorious display during the four to five days of Durga Puja. Be it from the ‘bhog’ that is served at the puja locations to the roadside snacks counters, visits to regular restaurants to making arrangements for having exclusive traditional cuisines, all are covered.
The list of events that took place during those days is too long to mention here, but one thing that I took away with me was the zeal to be happy. There used to be unending long lines in most of the well-known puja pandals, and most importantly, restaurants and most of the streets of the city would be jammed with people, yet no one would complain!
The religious reason behind celebrating this puja is a triumph of good over evil and as a result, it revolves around how Goddess Durga fought, defeated and terminated the most powerful evil power called ‘Ashur’.
It contributes to the reason why people in Bengal reveres their women and women's power.
Moreover, this celebration has to be supremely exceptional because of the unlimited bundle of virtues it brings along with it and its ability to strike the right cord year after year.
In conclusion, I ended my journey with this learning that the city of joy derives its happiness from its people and its festivities!
Finally, after my visit, now I absolutely know the answer to “Why is Durga Puja special to Bengalis?”