Today is the 6th day of Navarathri - (Shasti) and marks the beginning of Durga Puja in Bengal. Ma Durga comes home with her children Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh, and Karthik and is worshipped over five days - Ashtami or the 8th day being the most important day. Bengal comes alive with beatiful Pandals and skillfully carved idols of Ma Durga and family. There are Pandal and idol competitions across the state and the creativity of people is at its peak. The Pandals are based on various themes and people take the time out to actually go Pandal hopping and appreciate the creativity. Kolkata especially wears a festive look and all the sorrow and unhappiness just melt away with the onset of "Pujo". Being brought up in Kolkata, I just cannot help myself travelling down memory lane and how we used to simply enjoy Pandal hopping. Mom would maintain the tradition of Golu at home and would ensure that all friends visited us during the first 5-6 days so that we could go visiting pandals during the pujas. Saptami would be the day we would visit Pandals in and around our own area - there would be so many and this outing would be purely with friends. We would walk and walk and walk endlessly just enjoying the colour and lighting. Come Ashtami and dad would get busy planning our route map to visit the pandals across North Kolkata. These areas were supposed to have some of the best lighting and pandal decorations. We would have an early lunch and set off by public transport to the first Pandal at Mohammed Ali Park in Central Kolkata. These guys were famous at constructing exact replicas of famous monuments across the world. From there we would cover all the major areas one by one either by bus or by foot and would reach home late at night. Come Navami, after completing Saraswati puja at home, it would be time to cover the areas across South Kolkata and our journey would start from Deshapriya Park.
Here are some pictures of Puja Pandals borrowed from a friend's album: