Kolkata is where you need to be during Durga Puja. The celebrations have already begun – and how! Thanks to the 400 people who gathered to create the longest alpana or rangoli on the 1.4km stretch of the Lake Road, I am already in the ‘Pujo Pujo’ mode. With my shopping complete (Ok, maybe not!) and the nearbuy coupons for my favorite restaurants bought, the only thing left is to decide which pandals will I be visiting with my friends and family. And a little research did blow my mind with all that the Puja committees have be up to! They have certainly brought on their A-game‼
Here, let me tell you the pandals that you absolutely must, must and must visit this year on your pandal-hopping spree…
# Kashi Bose Lane Durga Puja
The 80-year old ‘barowaari’ Pujo in north Kolkata is all set to impress you with their concept ‘Asir kanshite taito ebar surer murchhona’ (how music resonates in our life and surroundings). You can expect to hear all kinds of music – from the silence of the winter chill to the sound of thunder during rains, the tracks played in a car when stuck in traffic to the chant of mantras during pujas, along with the strains of azaan. However, they will be sticking to their usual sabeki idol or traditional idol. I am personally excited to see how they will bring all of this diverse music together!
# Maniktala Vivekananda Sporting Association
On its 71st year, the Manicktala Vivekananda Sporting Association’s concept is ‘mukhose mora mukher mela’ (wherever you turn, you will be seeing faces sporting masks). Their pandal is going to be created on the lines of William Shakespeare’s All the World’s a Stage. The theme is beautiful given that all of us in our lives, sometimes or the other, put on one or maybe more than one mask to conceal our real selves. Do not miss seeing this pandal!
# Shyambazar Nabin Sangho
This will be the golden jubilee year for Shyambazar Nabin Sangho and they have chosen ‘shantir bari’. Their concept revolves around the age-old tradition of sprinkling of shantir jal or holy water. The pandal is going to resemble the verandah of an old village mansion from where Maa Shitala and Lord Shiva will be seen.
# Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty
This pandal is well-known for their lighting. This year, they promise to mesmerize you with 50 windmills that are made of LED lights. At the entrance, you will be greeted by an elephant that will give you a feeling that you are in the midst of the jungle. Approximately sixty skilled artisans from Midnapore have tirelessly worked for 4 months to make the theme Chaina Bondi, Chai Mukti alive. Nets used to make channi is used to decorate the entire pandal.
# Ekdalia Evergreen
The beauty, charm and grandeur of Chennai’s famous Ashtalakshmi Temple will be recreated here this year. The plans for the replica have been in motion since last year and the committee members have themselves travelled to Chennai to make sure that they have the details right. Apart from this, the other attraction is the rajbesh of the idol, which will be done by the renowned idol artist, Sanatan Rudra Pal. You will find Maa Durga and her children draped in gorgeous zardosi Banarasis.
# Singhi Park
Buddhism is the theme that Singhi Park has chosen to mark its 76th anniversary. Their motto this year is Chiyattorer Muktakashe, Manobotar Baahupashe. The huge pagoda in the heart of the city is going to be created by the popular artisans, Sutanu Maity and Radhakrishna Decorators. PRadip Rudra Pal is crafting the Durga idol.
# Deshapriya Park
Deshapriya Park puja committee never leaves any stones unturned when it comes to Wowing padal-hoppers. Remember the 88.5 feet Durga idol? This year, work is in full swing to give Kolkatans a feel of Thailand. Their theme is the beautiful White Temple of Thailand. Even though the hoardings and lack of publicity this year have made me wonder what’s wrong, but I think the ‘not advertising’ tactic is also working great for them!
# Sree Bhumi Sporting Club
Loved watching Baahubali? Well, here is a little treat for you. Sree Bhumi Sporting Club is recreating the set of Baahubali for you. Sree Bhumi’s Durgotsav has always been a grand affair, and this year is not going to be any different. The enormous replica of the Mahishmati Palace is being setup by famous Kolkata artists, Romeo and his team.
# Badamtala Ashar Sangha
Foreign travel, at least once, is probably on everyone’s bucket list. What if the US is brought to your homeland? Yes, this is actually happening and Badamtala Ashar Sangha is marking its 79th year with the theme Paschimi Hawa. They have dedicated this year’s Durga Puja celebrations to the probasis and the US and India Travel and Tourism Partnership Year. For the grand festival, they have roped in artisans from Burdwan and Midnapore. From 22nd September onwards, you will be able to enjoy America in Kolkata.
# Santosh Mitra Square
With America making its way to Kolkata’s Durga Puja, can London be far behind? Head to Santosh Mitra Square to get a feel of London. And pay your tribute to Maa Durga who will be draped in designer clothes that is designed by none other than Agnimitra Paul. To add to the entire dazzle, the idol will be adorned with 20kg of pure gold. You simply cannot miss this!
As for the other barowaari pujos that you cannot miss are FD Block in Salt Lake who are showcasing Bengali folk culture this year, A K Block in Salt Lake who are raising awareness about the state government’s Kanyashree Prakalpa and central government’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao theme through their pandal and Mitra Sanghati in east Kolkata’s Belighata area where they have chosen notebandi or demonetization as their theme this year. As for the very famous Baghbazar and Shobhabazar Sarbajanin Durgotsav, they are sticking to their traditional roots and will warm your heart like every year!
So, set the date and chalk out a plan so that you do not get stuck in traffic and do not miss any of the above-mentioned pandals!