The month of October brings an incredible share of joy every year. As August kicks in, a fair magnitude of festivals are ahead of us and only an Indian could foresee the rest of the months. This is that time of the year where everyone is hopeful about the holidays because good food, presents, a decent sale and maybe afternoon naps follow through.
India gears up every October for Durga Puja in Kolkata and Dussehra in Mysore which forms the highlight of festivals in India. Diwali is another important festival that India celebrates with sheer pomp but the events leading to Diwali are often Durga Puja and Dussehra. The two celebrations culminate to one of the most awaited festivals of the country because of its significance.
When A City Celebrates The Fearless
Celebrated in Kolkata, Durga Puja has been a bucket list destination for people not just in India but also across the globe. The 10-day festival celebrates the victory of goddess Durga in her battle against Mahishasura and Vijayadashami or Dussehra is the day she emerges victorious after killing the demon.
Like any religion whose message centres around the pursuit for peace and goodness, Durga Puja too is all about good banishing evil. It is believed that the demon was set to destroy the earth, when the destroyer of evil i.e Durga took matters in her hands and slayed the demon. For many, especially for the people of Kolkata, Durga Ma displays the characteristics of a mother- loving and a fierce protector when peace is disrupted.
In honour of her, the entire city of Kolkata is adorned like a bride where every person leaves their mundane chores or agonies and breathes the air of festivities that’s ahead of them. For 10 days, pandals all over the city become a hub of worship with the Goddess’s idols taking centre stage, delectable traditional bengali food is served followed by lots of dance and music. The night is alive with locals and tourists looking absolutely dapper hopping from one pandal to another to soak in every bit of the puja’s festive feel. The idols for the puja are painstakingly crafted by workers who begin the process months in advance to make sure that their goddess radiates and looks her best on the festive days. As seen prominently, goddess Durga is majestically seated on a lion with ten arms holding weapons to destroy her enemy.
Recently, one of the pandals in Kolkata replaced the idol of Goddess Durga with a statue of a migrant worker mother carrying her child on her waist. The pandal, organised by Barisha Club Durga Puja committee in Behala, Kolkata has garnered humongous attention for this feature which is rather unusual yet inspiring.
This is not the first time Kolkata has shown its creativity through its various pandals. Kolkata’s pride lies in these pandals that locals showcase to visitors every year. These pandals have been part of various competitions and they never cease to surprise tourists with an artistry that simply displays their undying zest for culture and creativity.
All this reminds me of something a dear friend once told me when I said I wished to visit Kolkata as I’ve never seen the city before and have also yearned to see Durga Puja. To that he said, “Do you want to see the city of Kolkata or see the Durga Puja festivities? Because they happen to be two different things.”
His statement clearly defined where Kolkata stands on its cultural value. Though the city and the festival of durga puja are intertwined yet, you cannot see the two in the same light as Kolkata has so much to offer otherwise.
Let there be light for the glorious
If you want to get a glimpse of how kings and queens of the past made their way into the city to acknowledge their town people, then Mysore Dasara is where you must be at where the 9-day carnival unfolds.
Dasara or Dussehra marks the end of Navratri or the 9-day festival that is celebrated with great fervour. Prominently celebrated in the south with utmost exuberance, Dussehra is celebrated all over the country. As the popular belief goes that Durga killed her enemy and saved her devotees, the northern part of India believes that Ram emerged victorious by killing Ravaan. Hence, Dussehra is celebrated differently in the country with people attaching a common credence to it that good always prevails over evil.
This brings us to Mysore Dasara, a festival that celebrates the warriors who fight for the good of its people and state. Like Durga Puja, Dasara is celebrated with equal excitement in Mysore where enthusiastic people throng the streets to watch the procession of the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari where she is placed on a golden matapa or seat atop a majestically-adorned elephant.
Decorated animals, music bands, dance groups, vibrant tableaux paint the city with various hues of joy and excitement. The parade begins from Mysore Palace which forms the epicenter of the festival as the palace is illuminated for all nine days. From there, it makes its way to Bannimantap where the banni tree is worshipped. According to a legend of the Mahabharata, Pandavas used the Banni tree to hide their weapons during their one year period of Agnatavasa. The kings worshipped this tree and believed that it could help them emerge victorious in the wars.
We can’t help but be in awe of the dedication, vigour and faith that goes into making these festivities a success year after year. These festivals form the backbone of India’s rich culture and pride and it is with great pride that each year in the confines of four walls or out in the glory of nature these festivals are celebrated and revered.