Durga Puja, arguably, one of the most celebrated festivals in the world, gives you an essence of the lives of people living in Calcutta. Though it is celebrated in different forms in different parts of the country, however, none of the other forms can match the grandeur of the one celebrated in Calcutta. The festival, one of the truest reflections of the lifestyle of the people living in the city, draws a huge number of tourists from across the world.
It is said that when in Rome, do what the Romans do; so if you happen to visit the city during this time and get the essence of the festival, these are some of the experiences you should try to have.
Mahalaya – Visit Babughat to watch people pay homage to their ancestors Mahalaya marks the beginning of the festivities in this part of the world. This is the last day of the Pitripaksha (a period of a Hindu month, consisting of 16 days, where Hindus pay homage to their ancestors), and the Matripaksha (a period of the Hindu calender, when goddess Durga is worshipped) begins. On this day, people gather in front of the nearest water-body and pay offerings to their departed ancestors and ensure that they are resting in peace and that the current generation is blessed with prosperity. Calcutta, being on the banks of river Hooghly, has several ghats (a platform with stairs leading to the waterbody), and people gather at each such place. However, the biggest gathering happens at Babughat (situated near the central business district of the city, popularly known at the B.B.D Bag, along the banks of Hooghly River). Thousands of people gather at this ghat or those surrounding it, at the break of the dawn, and perform the rituals. This sets the tone for the Durga Puja and the ritual is worth a visit. If you are a photography enthusiast, this will be quite a delight. However, you will have to start early to ensure that you don’t miss most of the action.
The next stop on this day is Kumortuli, which is situated around four kilometers to the north of this place. Kumortuli is the potters’ hub and that produces the maximum number of idols in the city. This place, too, is situated on the banks of the Hooghly River. If you want to witness the making of an idol, this is the place you need to be. Again, for photographers, this is an interesting place to be. Also, Mahalaya marks a special event here; it is on this day, the eyes of the goddess Durga are drawn. Once you are done, take a walk around this place and you will get the essence of the British Calcutta.
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