Oct 092016

The Joy Of Puja: Because Every Puja is Special

Note from desi Traveler: There is Puja festivities everywhere, so I asked our friends to share their Puja Memories from Kolkata and other places.  I have my own fond memories of Puja in Kolkata, going from one Pandal to another trying to figure out what is happening all around me. But then I gave up and just joined the crowd in celebrating. Such is the joy of joining a Sarbojanin Durga Puja or the community Puja. But then there are very special Pujas that happen in Bengali homes in Kolkata that has a tradition going back generations.  No matter what memories of Puja you have from Kolkota or any other place, each memory of Puja is a very special one. I have enjoyed reading these memories that vary from Sindur Khela to Bhog to a child understanding significance of immersion, and I do hope you will enjoy them equally. I want to thank each of the contributors for this very special desi Travel Digest and our editor and curator Anindya and Madhushree.

So here is a very special post as part of desi Travel digest, curated by Anindya S. Basu and Madhushree Basu Roy about memories from Puja.  

When it comes to Kolkata and Bengalis, everyone has very special memories of the city, as the popular belief is that the city grows on you slowly and the relationship which might have started on hate, ends up in love. There is Diwali, there is Holi, there is Eid, there is Christmas and then there is Durga Puja. Bengalis call it Pujo, and it’s their biggest carnival. Kolkata doesn’t have corporate headquarters like Mumbai, Kolkata doesn’t have the supreme political corridors of Delhi, Kolkata doesn’t have the all-round business and opportunity growth spurt of Bangalore and Pune, but it has Durga Puja.

No matter where the Bengali has settled now, be it  Seattle, Sydney, Singapore or Seoul, the words Durga Puja is an instant trigger for the bundle of memories and joy. The best part of this festival is that people who have even spent one Durga Puja in Kolkata have some memory about it, which is etched in his heart for a lifetime. We asked few what are their memories of Durga Puja with some photographs. It was almost like taking a peek into someone’s personal album and asking questions. This is not a blog post but an album (yes! I am a firm believer that the thrill of looking into an old album cannot be replaced by digital files). Join us

Saumy Nagayach describes himself as a novice photographer and a person who loves to weave stories around stories and these are the pictures from his first experience of Durga Puja in Kolkata. In his words- “The energy, fun, enthusiasm, vibrancy and liveliness were never witnessed in any other city I resided before. The rich traditional Durga Puja celebrations have a royal and blissful feeling altogether. The murtis (idols) of Goddess Durga appears like that the artisans have revived the very soul in them. The eyes speak a lot and fill joy in the environment. I believe if its Durga Puja then it has to be in Kolkata.”


The Eyes are where you feel the soul of the idol


Saumy has many memories of Puja in Kolkata

Saumy Blogs at Saumy’s Blog

While the festival is for 5 days, but like the artisans and idol makers who have been preparing for the Puja for a long period of time, the preparations start somewhere else also. Almost everyone in West Benga,l at some point of time or other have participated in some form of Durga Puja cultural activity. Durga Puja is also the time to embrace the stage for the first time for many and then for some, it becomes an annual affair. For Sushmita, her fondest memories are around the cultural competition around Durga Puja. In her words “As a Delhi Bengali, some of my fondest memories of Durga Puja are of the various cultural activities we took part as kids and youngsters during the 5 days of the festival. The Bengali community of Delhi comes together these 5 days in different parts of the city and not only prays together but plays, dances and sings together. One of the most important and fun activities that almost every locality Durga Puja organizers is the ‘Painting & Art’ Competition for kids. As a child, it used to be a matter of pride to win these competitions. l clicked this photo one year when I was organizing a painting competition at my locality Pujo. A kid was completely immersed in drawing this beautiful image of Maa Durga and I felt I should click an unfinished portrait rather than a finished one.”


Sushmita Sarkar shares a painting of Ma Durga being made during a Pujo in Delhi 

Sushmita blogs atMy Unfinished Life


durga-puja-pandal memories

Pandal hopping is an integral part of Puja Memories

Sharmistha loves the Pujo and the rituals around it. Many like me, who are an atheist throughout the year somewhere turns a believer. One of the key aspects of the pujo is the Anjali or the offering of prayers on Maha asthami morning after taking a bath and keeping a fast. Most don’t want to miss this opportunity as this also is part of socializing. The long-forgotten friend, the schoolmate, the angry uncle- you get a chance to bump into all of them on an Ashtami morning. For Sharmistha, the first image is a representation of that only. In her words – “The first Image was taken at my cousin’s house during the yajna on Mahanavami. The chanting of the sacred Vedic hymns with the warm hue of rising fire and the smoke filled the surrounding. It cleansed our souls from all evils and filled our heart with love, togetherness, and forgiveness – the true essence of Durga Puja.”

The pandals are a key part of Durga Puja and in the second image, Sharmistha has highlighted that –

– “The second Image was taken at a Puja Pandal in the locality. Here, theme took over the tradition. The entrance gate made as a houseboat and the Pandal like a temple in Kerala. The dimly lit interior along with the essence of the burning camphor enhanced the feel. The idols too, decorated as Kathakali performers waiting to start a religious performance.”

durga-puja-pandal memories

No 2 pandals are same

Shamistha blogs at –  Wanderlust 

The signs of Puja coming are many. All of a sudden the weather changing and a pleasant weather giving way to the humid temperature and incessant rainfalls of monsoon. The hint of aroma from shiuli flowers (Nyctanthes arbor- tristis, commonly known as night flowering jasmine) in the air is tough to be ignored and like Priyanka, there are many who loves the fragrance. After all, a sense of happiness is also a combination of smell, sight, taste and much more.


Shiuli flowers are an integral part of Puja

– “The image was clicked in Hyderabad in 2011 on Mahalaya. The ethereally beautiful shiuli flowers mark the onset of Durga Puja for me and there has rarely been a year when I haven’t laid my hands upon some fragrant shiuli.”

I consider Durga idol making as a mainstream art in itself. Year after year the idol makers come up with new themes, innovations which mesmerize everyone. As Priyanka says about her second image –


Clicking Durga Puja on Mobile Phone

-“It’s an example of a classic captured both ways. Whether clicked by a camera or a mobile phone, the tranquil image of Ma Durga remains unperturbed”

Priyanka blogs at –   One And A Half Minutes

There are many families run Durga Pujas which are unique in their own ways. One may miss the pomp and the grandeur of the big budget pujas but that is replaced by the ethnicity and traditional ways of performing the Puja, the entire family coming together with distributed responsibilities to perform the Puja and most of these Pujas have a great history behind. Subhajit Chakraborty found a moment like this and grabbed it. In his words-

– “Barwari Durga Pujas (Family Durga Puja) in Bengal are special cherishing moments. I love those intimate moments of the personal touch of family members on occasion. This image is from Nilmani Sen family’s Durga Puja continuing unbroken since 1913. Fortunately, one of my friends is the member of this family and lives in that house. The inimitable thing is the idol. The family worships Abhaya Durga, who has three eyes but two hands instead of ten. Abhaya Durga name comes from her right hand that is in Abhaya Mudra, and the left hand is in Varada Mudra.”


Nilmani Sen family’s Durga Puja has celebrated Abhay Durga Puja since 1913


Puja memories will last a lifetime and cherished forever

Subhajit blogs at –  Wacky Wanderlust

Each ritual in Durga Puja creates memories for a lifetime and one of which is Sindoor Khela. This is one of the rituals to bid goodbye to mother goddess while eagerly waiting for the next year. What happens here is beautifully crafted by Ankhi Pal. She says –

– “Dashami. The last day. The day of complete bliss with a tinge of sadness. A day when we already start thinking about next year’s Durga Puja because it’s all about ‘asche bachor abar habe’. It’s the day for “Sindoor Khela”, though for married women, my friend (Susmita) and I, always jump into the play. As, for me, it is a feeling which is difficult to describe, but where I have always wanted to be a part of, and of course, whenever I think about it, it always gives me that “bari” feeling and yes, the “puja” feeling too, because staying away from Kolkata this memory takes me back to my good old’ Calcutta!”


Sindur Khela is a celebration for Married women but Ankhi and her friends join in


Sindur Khela takes Ankhi back to her home and Kolkata

Ankhi Pal blogs at We Life and We

They say you can take a Bengali out of Kolkata but you can never take Kolkata out of Bengali so here we have  Suprio Bose from Mumbai sharing two of his images from Durga Puja from Bombay.


There is a Devi in every Girl believes Suprio Bose

His first memory is of performance that depicted that each girl child is a Devi in herself. I think that is a great message for all of us when we are about to celebrate ” International Day of Girl Child”.

The second image Suprio share is of a Baul singer, who was totally immersed in his singing  and  lost entirely in his music and dancing to its tunes.


A Baul Singer lost in the music. Do you know the significance of the colorful clothes he is wearing ?

Suprio Bose Blogs at  Suprio Bose Travel Diaries 

Rajiv Verma is a traveler trapped in an IT guy. Here he shares his Durga Pooja picture from Bangalore his home nowadays.


Rajiv Blogs at Web Guy Travel Tales 

Indrani Ghose. is a well-known travel blogger based in Bangalore. As per her , “I never miss the bhog. It is fun to watch friends catching up. Friends from different corners of the city meet during this yearly festival, they catch up with latest gossips. A common topic is often praising one another’s new outfits and jewelry. And all this over a hot plate of khichuri.


     Bhog is the communal food that is served during Puja

Check Indrani’s blog : i Share

Today  Durga Puja is one of the biggest festivals all over India and not just in Kolkata, if you have a Bengali friend then it is impossible to remain aloof from the Pujo Fever. Here is an image shared by artist, entrepreneur, and  Kanchan Yadav, who celebrated Sindur Khela with her Bengali friends.


Artist and entrepreneur Kanchan Yadav with her friends during Sindur Khela

You can check some of the artwork created by Kanchan on her Facebook page: Artsy Craftsy

The next image we share is from well known professional photographer Shantanu Das, who has clicked who’s who of Bollywood over the years from Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar to  Hrithik Roshan etc.  Here he shares one of his favorite images from a Barwari Durga Pujas (Family Durga Puja) from one of the oldest and most respected Kolkata families.  Let us see how many of you from Kolkata connection can name it ? Do leave your answer in the comments 🙂

Barwari Durga Puja Kolkata

Can you name the Barwari Durga Puja (Family Durga Puja) shown in this picture ? If you know leave a comment about the same. Check Shantanu Da’s work here:  Shantanu Photographer

Here let us take you to a special post on Durga Puja by Purba Ray, as she takes her own very special memories in classical Purba Ray style about Puja in Delhi.

Durga Puja in Delhi CR Park

Check memories of Durga Puja by Purba Ray who writes A-musing  >>  Pujo Madness 

And finally we have our own memories :

Like all Bengalis and being grown up in a small town called Chandannagore, which is a suburb of Kolkata, I have a kaleidoscopic memory of Durga Puja. The first stage performance of singing Rabindrasangeet, the first eating out, the first time a beautiful girl in a saree said yes to me for an ice cream, first time wearing full pants and to be precise- Jeans; the memories are stored in a safe transparent vault within my heart where no one can touch them but I can see and feel them whenever I want. Since the time I became a father, the memories are all around my son.madhushree-basu-pikturenama

Cannot forget these two moments – when for the first time he tried to play the dhak when he was around 2.5 years. I guess I was more thrilled than him. It’s the same year he realized what a visarjan is and that moment when the mother and son bid goodbye to goddess mother wishing her to come soon next year.


Playing Dhak for the first time during Pujo – What a melodious memory

I can go on endlessly with the memories’. But memories are like that favorite old book which no matter how many times you read, it wouldn’t get old and some days are meant for revisiting some old chapters.

About editor and curator:madhushree-and-anindya-basu

Anindya S Basu and Madhushree Basu Roy are entrepreneurs and bloggers based in Kolkata. Pikturenama is their blog about Photography, Travel, and food cooked by  Madhushree. Besides their blog you can also follow their journeys on Twitter:  Anindya

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  14 Responses to “Revisiting Puja Memories: With Love from Kolkata”

Comments (14)
  1. Hi Prasad,

    Just finished your beautifully-written about Durga puja and what stunning photos! I also have a blog and cover the same topic. It’s for “51 Pandal of Durga Puja in Kolkata | best guides | North South Central”. Kindly check and share your views.

    Ruma Dey Baidya

  2. Thank you for sharing such lovely images. Keep up the lovely work !

  3. Thanks for including my photos, the shiuli one is very close to my heart. This year, I spotted some in Goa and was jumping with joy! Hope everyone had a great Pujo this year, we’re looking forward to the next one already.

  4. Such an incredible post! Enjoyed every bit of it – the pictures, the memories and the narrative. Though I have never been a part of the festive fervour, I could feel the real cultural essence of the Puja that makes our festivals what they are, a time for joy, merrymaking and fun. Thank you so much for compiling it and yes, the dhak memory in the end was a treat, the sweetest icing on the cake.

  5. Such a wonderful post , Prasad! Thanks for bringing all the beautiful memories of Durga Puja alive again.
    Really appreciate your and Anindya’s efforts!

    Glad I contributed to this post and thanks a lot for sharing all the enchanting memories of fellow bloggers and photographers. 🙂

    Happy Maha Navami! 🙂

  6. Beautiful Post with lovely pictures… Thank you all for featuring my photos 🙂

  7. How do I share my Pujo post here?

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