Durga Pujo

Durga Pujo Today - Mesmerizing more than ever!

With millions of people in India and many across the globe participating in the yearly festival of Durga Pujo, this grand celebration to rejoice in the victory of good over evil can truly be regarded as the World's Biggest Sarbajanin Festival (A festival for one and all). The age old rituals and traditions associated with Durga Pujo have gradually evolved into an iconic celebration of modern Bengali identity in West Bengal. Durga Pujo today is not just a religious ceremony dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga, it is a congregation of culture, society, religion and ethnicity to name a few. Let's travel through the many facets of Durga Pujo today...

Themed Pandals and Lighting

Basic bamboo structures and canopies built to house the idol of Goddess Durga and her children are a thing of the past now. The simple pandals of the past have been replaced with creatively done artistic themed pandals. Armed with tools of imagination, the idol makers and decorators use almost everything that can be utilised to give shape to their ideas, starting from Gangetic clay to paper mache, bamboo splints, nuts, seeds, beads, fabrics, hay, paper, cardboard, wood, plastics, glass, ceramics, shells, beads, razor blades, screws nuts, bolts and more.

The array of 'theme' pandals are focussed on a multitude of topics ranging from global warming to digitisation, dependence on social media, animations, female foeticide, women empowerment, feminism and more. In recent years some of the Pandals in Kolkata have been found to replicate the sets of spectacular movies like 'Baahubali' and 'Padmaavat', urban folk culture, ancient epics, fusion art, 3D printing and more such innovations, for which the organising committees plan months ahead of the actual Pujo days.

Pandals are not the only part of Durga Pujo that have evolved. Today, lighting and illumination play a vital role in attracting people to the pandals as well. Grand structure with eye capturing installations, often motion enabled are set up on roads leading to the pandals. The big budget Durga Pujo spent crores only in illumination of the area in and around their pandals. From animals to popular politicians, current affairs and folk tales, there is no dearth of subject when it comes to making the lighting structures for Durga Pujo. The bright and beautifully illuminated structures are a major crowd puller to the pandals during the Pujo.


The Modern Durga Idol

While clay and stones are still used in the making of the Goddess, modern artisans have not stopped themselves from experimenting with other material like fibre, wood, wax etc. in creating the Goddess. Like women these days, modern day Durga too does not restrict her look to only the traditional. Many Durga Pujos especially the Theme Pujos innovate looks for the Goddess in keeping with the Theme of the Pandal.

The traditional jewellery made of paper or clay have too been replaced with Gold Plated Jewellery in the recent years. Some well-known jewellery establishments in Kolkata have also gone to the extent of offering sponsorship of Devi Durga's jewellery to increase their Brand Awareness.

The craftsmen today are also permitted to exhibit their originality by moving away from the traditional Daaker Saaj for the Goddess to more modern Benarasi and designer Sarees. With every Pujo Committee stressing to compete with each other on how beautiful their Goddess looks, it has been observed that in modern times, the face of the Goddess too differs from one pandal to another.


The Evolution
of Pujo Food

Gone are the days when Pujor Bhog and home-cooked food was the only food to look forward to during the Durga Pujo celebrations. With multi-cuisine restaurants popping up at every corner of the road, the options to choose your best pick of food to satisfy your heart and soul are immense.

Many hotels also offer special Buffets from Saptami to Dashami for food lovers to pick and choose from, especially when dining out with your friends and family tops your Durga Pujo To Do List! From 5-stars to casual dining, traditional Bengali to Asian, lunch time or midnight snacking - food lovers gear up to try a variety of new foods during the festive days. At hotels Pujo Bhoj, or special Pujo buffets, are introduced just for these few days which include plethora of food items, with special fusion or à la carte combinations usually presented with a touch of Bangaliana (read, Bengali-ness).

In addition to the hotels and restaurants, there are a number of food stalls that are set up around the Pujo Pandal to fill the tummies of hungry Pandal Hoppers! From Popcorn and Pizza to Fish Fry and Candy Floss, from Biryani to Chow Mein, there are a whole lot of snacks to choose from at these stalls. Cold drinks, juices, tea and coffee are also available readily here. Another favourite Pujo time snack is Phuchka (small round flour balls stuffed with potatoes and dipped in tamarind water). A crowd is always seen around the Phuchkawalas standing outside the pandals!

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Pujo Barshiki 
(Pujo Annuals with stories and literary articles)

If you are a book lover or love to read, you would definitely be looking forward to the Pujo Barshiki or annual periodicals that come out a couple of months or weeks prior to Durga Pujo.

Anandamela published by popular Bengali Publishing house Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP Limited) happens to be one of the most popular Pujo Barshiki available. This periodical is more inclined towards children and have short stories, poems and comics that children would love to read. Many eminent Bengali authors like Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay also contribute to this periodical which was first published in 1975.

In addition to Anandamela, some of the other popular Pujo Barshikis include Desh, Sananda and Anandalok. Readers wait for the release of the special Pujo editions of these fortnightly periodicals, which is why they are mostly all sold out within a week of their launch.

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Brands and
the Durga Pujo

Today, Durga Pujo has become the favourite time for Brands to advertise and promote their products and services. You would notice that almost every Pujo Pandal has big hoardings of their advertisers with 100% visibility. Many pandals also give prominence to their main sponsors by attaching their names to the Pujo.

Concerts, contests and live performances are also organized by many brands at the Pandals during the Pujos to give their brands maximum exposure through branding. Sponsors also put up grand structures at the entrance of the pandals with their branding to catch the eyes of their prospective target audience in the Pujo crowd.

Many Companies have also created Awards for the Best Pujo in the city. Cash prizes as well as gifts and trophies are given out to the winners of the Best Pujo, Best Idol, Best Theme, Best Pandal and many more by these Companies/ brands to create brand awareness as they spread festive cheer and gaiety.


Durga Pujo Sale!

Commercialism has definitely taken over a major part of the Durga Pujo celebrations today. One of the main aspects of the same can be seen in the Pre-Pujo Sales held at garment stores across Kolkata and its neighbouring districts. Everyone looks forward to the End of Season sales that commence a few months prior to Durga Pujo. After all everyone likes to grab their best branded clothes at the lowest price available!

Once the End of Sales end in August, the fresh stock of Durga Pujo fashion garments hit the stores across the city. Unlike the older days, today, fashion is one of the most important part of Durga Pujo celebrations. From the old to the young, everyone wants to look their best and sport the latest trends in fashion during Durga Pujo. Wearing new clothes, shoes and jewellery during the five vital Pujo days is a must!

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The Pujor Adda Zones

While enjoying adda sessions at your local Pujo or Parar Pujo is a constant during the 5-day festivities, the younger generation - all decked up and in high spirits – spend a lot of time at some of the iconic Community Pujos that have gradually evolved as adda-zones. Some of these prominent adda-zones include Durga Bari, Maddox Square and Salt Lake FD Block among the many others. Sitting for a session of Adda (chit chat) at your favourite pandal is a must during Durga Pujo.

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Dhunuchi Naach by Women

Amongst the many traditions of Durga Pujo, Dhunuchi Naach is a must - especially during Ashtami Pujo and the immersions. While men performing Dhunuchi Naach is common, with the times changing, Dhunuchi Naach or dancing with a pot of burning incense is no longer a man thing. Women dressed in beautiful traditional attire perform Dhunuchi Naach at many pandals and Pujo across the city of Kolkata. If you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of this beautiful dance online right here on MahaUtsav Online, in its Online Darshan section.

Pandal Hopping
- Pujo Parikrama

Traditional Pandal and Pujo Parikrama tours entice both, the Kolkata residents as well as the non-resident Kolkatans alike, especially the senior citizens. These days, exclusive tours are planned to include a mix of cherry-picked traditional as well as themed Durga Pujo that are popular and in-demand. These are prearranged to avoid rush hours, and fortified with VIP entries in order to avoid the maddening pandal-hopping crowd and chaos.

Many brands and Companies also tie up with the Pujo Committees to give out VIP Pujo Passes for exclusive easy entry to the most crowded Pujos of Kolkata. These passes are generally given out with purchase of a product or service associated with the brand. The VIP Passes are much in demand as they are an easy way to enter the pandals while avoiding the maddening rush. The Government of West Bengal also organises multiple Pujo Tours at a reasonable cost, often inclusive of meals during the Durga Pujos. Check them out on the West Bengal Tourism website.

With more and more Durga Pujo Committees inaugurating their pandals ahead of the actual time, the period of Pandal hopping has increased by multiple times in recent years. In the past Pandals were just about ready on Shashti and inaugurated, however nowadays, organizers ensure completion and inauguration by Chaturthi, thus advancing the days of pandal hopping by almost four. While this has been a boon for Pandal hoppers and Pujo Committees, the Police have to bear the pressure of handling people and crowds much earlier.

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Digital Durga Pujo Greetings

In present times, digitisation has helped people transcend boundaries. Puja wishes on email, e-greetings, WhatsApp stickers, Facebook GIFs have replaced the traditional morning wishes on Pujo Days. Near or far, wishing the close relatives, friends or family has turned easier on the auspicious days of Maha Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami and Maha Nabami. True, the messages cannot offer the solace that a Bijoya Kolakuli (hug) can give, but it at least makes you feel connected with the people you love.

Pujor Function - Concerts & Jatras

Durga Pujo is a time for celebrations! To add to the joy of the festival, a number of Pujo Committees these days hold Jatras (plays/ skits), musical concerts, dance dramas, competitions etc. near their pandals for people to participate and showcase their talents while the people enjoy! Many also invite eminent singers, dancers, Tollywood and Bollywood stars to perform at concerts held during the Durga Pujos. The popularity of Bangla Bands have created a huge demand for them to perform during the Durga Pujos in the city.

The concerts and cultural programmes surely make the World's Biggest Festival Complete in every aspect!

Immersion - No longer the end of celebrations

In recent years, the Government of West Bengal has been organizing special Durga Pujo Parades at the end of the Pujos where the best Pujo idols of the Goddess are paraded for public viewing. So if you have missed seeing some of the best Pujos in town, this is the time when you can view the same, and all together at one go. This happens after the official immersions are over on Dashami, giving people an excuse to extend their celebrations! The Government of West Bengal also organizes cruises across the river Ganga for people to witness the immersion of the idols.

Durga Pujo - No longer a ‘Bengali Only’ affair

Durga Pujo has always been ‘a festival for all’. It is perhaps the only Hindu festival in India which sees people of all religions and strata of the society enjoying pandal hopping, eating out and having fun day and night together with their Bengali friends and families during Durga Pujo making this festival truly "Sarbajanin" – for all.

Durga Pujo in present times has definitely become even more mesmerizing and grand than ever. And for those who are not around to experience this one-of-its-kind festive extravaganza, MahaUtsav Online gives you the opportunity of joining in the celebrations of the World's Biggest Festival with a click of your mouse - online.

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