Durga Puja Kolkata

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Durga Puja 2011 was celebrated in Kolkata on a grand scale. This is the 48 feet high fibre-glass Durga idol at FD Block, Salt Lake, depicted in the center of the artificially created Kailash mountains. These days the most popular Durga Puja''s are inaugurated on Tritiya itself i.e. the third day after Mahalaya, and the crowds start visiting the pandals from Chaturthi till Dashami. The main puja days are on Saptami, Ashtami and Navami.

The FD Block puja at night. This picture was taken on Maha-Ashtami, which witnesses the maximum crowds. Lakhs of people visit the pandals on Ashtami night. The pandals are temporary structures made of bamboo /cloth, which serve as a temple for the goddess. Many of them are planned and designed over 5-6 months.

Nearly every community in Kolkata organizes a Durga Puja known as a Sarbojonin Puja (i.e. puja in which everyone can participate, irrespective of class, caste, religion, race etc.) More than two thousand pandals are erected in Kolkata of which around a 100 are very popular and are visited by pandal-hoppers. Most pandals and Durga idols are designed according to a theme. This photograph shows the pandal at Yubak Brinda, Dumdum park, which depicted the golden cosmic egg of creation.

The Durga idol at Yubak Brinda, Dumdum park, present within the yolk of the egg. Durga thus represents the source of life for the entire cosmos.

Global warming and environmental destruction are very popular themes. At Bharat Chakra, Dumdum park, the Durga idol is depicted as emerging from a tree. Durga, thus, represents the life giving power of the tree while the asuras are those that are causing environmental destruction and atmospheric pollution.

The Durga idol at Adibashi Brinda, Lake Town, shows the goddess relinquishing her weapons, after killing Mahisasura. Here too, the theme revolved around the destruction of the environment.

At the United Club, Ultadanga, the theme involved the beneficial aspects of serpents (such as medicines obtained from their venom) and the churning of the Milky Ocean. In this image, we can see Vishnu reclining in the center of the Milky Ocean on his serpent bed.

The pandal at United Club, Ultadanga depicting the gods and the demons holding onto the serpent Vasuki, and churning the Milky Ocean.

The Durga idol at United Club, Ultadanga. Durga here is crowned by the serpent, much like Shiva.

The Mitali Sangha, Kankurgachi depicted the heavenly realm of Durga in the midst of clouds, and guarded by heavenly elephants and apsaras, using various items like cotton, kash flowers, ropes etc.

Durga idol at Mitali Sangha, Kankurgachi.

Themes from the Ramayana are very popular at many pandals. This is because the Durga Puja is based on Lord Rama''s invocation of the goddess Durga before embarking on his battle against Ravana. Originally, Durga Puja used to be celebrated in March-April, a practise that is still followed in many parts of rural Bengal (Basanti Puja). In this image from HB block, Salt Lake, Rama and Laxmana are shown immersing the Durga idol.

Worship of Shiva is also very popular during Durga Puja. This is the dancing Nataraj at FD Block, Salt Lake.

A number of pandals are based on Buddha themes, denoting the peaceful, meditative aspect of the goddess. This image shows the Buddha, as a part of the decoration at a pandal in AD Block, Salt Lake.

A reclining Buddha in the center of an artifical pool of water at AD Block, Salt Lake - in a manner similar to the reclining Vishnu.

The Durga idol at AD Block, Salt Lake, incorporating Buddhist design themes.

Many pandals recreate various temples and monuments of India and abroad. At the Ballygunge Cultural puja, an old terracota temple of Bengal has been created, complete with very detailed designs.

At the Jodhpur Park pandal, an excellent replica of the Sanchi Stupa of Madhya Pradesh was created. Within the pandal, the decorations focussed on the life of Buddha.

A popular trend is to use various forms and village and tribal arts in the decoration of the pandals. This provides a big exposure and economic support to these handlooms and artisans. At the Nabin Pally, Hatibagan pandal an entire village ambience was created using jute, bangles and other products. The theme revolved around the role of women in household work.

Durga idol at Nabin Pally, Hatibagan.

The Shib Mandir pandal in South Kolkata used bamboo as the primary material for decoration.

The inside of the pandal at Shib Mandir. The lighting within the bamboo deigns created a surreal effect.

Durga idol at Shib Mandir.

A tribal ambience was created at Kumartuli Park in North Kolkata. The pandal was mud-finished and colorfully decorated. Kumartuli is the place where most of the Durga idols are created from clay at the artisan village. As such its Puja is also very famous.

Durga idol at Kumartuli Park.

At AG Block, Salt Lake the theme was nature; tress, fruits, flowers were created using cotton, cloth, bamboo and other material and beautifully decorated and lighted up.

Durga idol at AG Block, Salt Lake, placed under the shade of an artifically created tree.

A beautiful Durga idol at AE Block, Salt Lake.

Nature was also the theme at CJ Block, Salt Lake where a very beautiful pandal was created which depicted a white flower, and a butterfly.

The Durga idol at CJ Block, Salt Lake. The interior of the pandal was also decorated with trees, birds and other animals.

A very colourful, imaginary temple was created at Samaj Sebi in South Kolkata. The pandal was beautifully decorated with intricate designs.

Some of the intricate and colourful decorative elements outside the Samaj Sebi pandal, depicting various mythic tales.

At the Golf Green Durga Puja, the theme was Madhubani paintings. The pandal was decorated with multiple Madhubani paintings, and peacocks and other birds. The idol of the goddess was also very beautiful.

The Hindustan Park Durga Puja used colored glass, lamps and crystals to decorate their pandal. Their theme was ''glass paradise''. The Durga idol was enclosed within crystals.

At Laboni, Salt Lake, an imaginative pandal was created with three gates leading to the inner pandal where the idol was kept. The gates were beatifully decorated with Shiva and Durga themes.

Durga idol at Laboni, Salt Lake.

At Nalini Sarkar Street, the theme was boat and water. The pandal was beautifully decorated and the Durga idol was elegant with a bronze finish.

At Hatibagan Sarbojonin, the theme was the transition from art from old to new forms. The idol was beautiful, with the others gods and goddesses - Lakhmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik - shown seated on the horns of the bull.

At Ahritola, the pandal had an innovative theme. The goddess was shown flying through the air, and pinning down Mahisasura on the surface of the earth. All around the pandal, various asuras are shown who are burning in the flaming effulgence of Durga.

The flaming Durga idol at Ahiritola.

Durga Puja is not just about pandals and lighting. Every day from Shasti till Navami, there is a morning flower worship called ''pushpanjali'' and evening ''aarati'', in which the residents of each community assemble. Many communities organize lunch and dinner for the community members on each day of the puja.The sound of dhak, and the famous dhunuchi dance performed in front of the goddess, are also great puja attractions.

At Jagat Mukherjee Park in North Kolkata, the pandal was exquisitely decorated with different sizes of coloring pencils.

The ceiling of the pandal at Jagat Mukherjee Park.

The Durga idol at Jagat Mukherjee Park. This photograph was taken on Dashami when the married women of the community assemble to perform the ''boron'' ceremony. They walk around the goddess 7 times, smear the goddess with red vermillion and offer sweets to the goddess before the final immersion ceremony. The womenfolk also apply vermillion on one another as a gesture of goodwill. After this, the goddess is taken out of the pandal for immersion in the Ganges, accompanied by drum beats, amidst cries of ''Bolo Durga mai-ki jai'' .

At Babubagan in South Kolkata, the pandal had a ''glass pyramid'' in front of it, much like the one that is found in front of the Louvre museum in France. The pandal was decorated with canvas paintings, terracotta sculptures etc.

At Suruchi Sangha in New Alipore the theme was Kashmir. The pandal was designed like a wicker basket filled with burning coal. All around the pandal they depicted melting glacier, drying lakes, deserted shikaras etc. in order to highlight the effects of global warming.

The interior of the pandal at Suruchi Sangla was exqusitely decorated with Kashmiri carpet designs and wooden works.

The Durga idol at Suruchi Sangha carved on wood, with very intricate designs. An large number of awards are given out by various corporates and organizations to the best Pujas in Kolkata, in various categories such as the best idol, lighting, pandal etc. In 2011, Suruchi Sangha bagged most of the coveted awards. To watch Durga Puja on U Tube Click here

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