There are a few things Bengalis love more than ‘mach’. Yup, football. Which itself is a religion to a Bengal and of course Durga puja. Durga puja being the only thing that commands over a regular Bengali’s life. The wait, the sights and sounds of the reverent ‘Dhak’ and much more. It’s this festival that keeps the regular Bengali mind preoccupied, it’s this that keeps a Bengali moving. Durga puja is something that’s so simple and transparent with numerous layers. There’s religion, overlapping light along with the influx of love diffusing sounds that the old-school long beaked mic plays.
Do I smell religion?
It’s something so simple yet so powerful that simply breaks down social hierarchy and class differences for the 5 days and the time prior and after. The festival being so communal, so uniting and so simple that it even gives Communism a run for its buck. Strangely enough, this is a Religious festival. Wherein we sound minded common liberal people can agree on a point that religion has done so much against humanity and liberty.
Only in Kolkata?
This festival does the opposite. This religious festival oddly speaking is very liberal, the opposite of what religious dogma demands. Yet to any outsider, someone who has never been to Kolkata, it may seem that the whole Durga Puja thing is very religion centric. People flocking in the thousands to get a glimpse of Goddess Durga, not to mention the ordeal of ‘Anjali’ and ‘OsthomirSondhaArothi’. These probably convinced the non-Bengali readers that we Bengalis take our Puja and religion seriously and to an extent that it becomes fun. Literally speaking, it is a religious festival, and religion must be the centerpiece of the entire festivity. But it isn’t. Durga Puja (Puja means to worship) isn’t so much religion centric.What’s important is that religion has tied the festivities together. And that’s what I adore about my city Kolkata. People of my city are religious but not fanatics.
The three stages
Let’s take into consideration various age groups.
Theirs the first age group until twelve. To them, Puja doesn’t stand for religion or god worship. Durga Puja to them is ice cream, snacks, the company of their newly acquired friends and of course the smell and smoke from their toy guns. That is where they find god.
Then comes the age of dreams. The teenage. This is probably the group that enjoys puja to the fullest. This is when a teen discovers life. This is the sweetest phase. There’s freedom, there’s dress code, there’s hanging out with buddies and obviously, there is love and countless infatuations and simple fickle relationships. This is probably the most memorable time in a Bengali’s life when he/she can truly take command over his/her life. This is the religion to any Bengali teen.
Then comes adulthood with a few attachments and Cc and Bcc of responsibilities. If Puja is the time when a Bengali discovers himself then there is no better time than this. This is when he/she truly reflects and rectifies and organizes life. This is the time when his friends get limited. And from this moment the definition of puja changes for a lot of people. Things get personal and personalized. Responsibilities take hold of life, and things begin to mean more. Yet in all this seriousness a Bengali adult finds his festival, his inner joys, maybe a bit less, maybe subtle but this is his religion this is his god.
Where our god resides
Maybe this is what Durga puja is all about. It is finding your own gods, the things that you love to do the most. And my city truly knows how to seek god. Not through religion but using it as a medium to unite and celebrate. Not Durga’s killing Mahishasur, not even good over evil or light over darkness but humanity over everything else. My city likes to mix sights and sounds like spices in a ‘Chat’ but it knows the fine line between religion and man and that’s where we truly enjoy Durga Puja. In our beloved city, we continue to seek our Durga.
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