Those who come to Kolkata as tourists during times other than the Durga Puja have struggled to accept Calcutta as the City of Joy. All they see is a lazy, laid back city where people and their daily activities are driven more by the heat and the humidity and less by their ambition.
But come Durga puja, and you can feel the excitement in the air. The city is lit up with colorful lights and pandals are put up in almost every nook and corner of the city. Over the years, the concept of establishment of pandals has been redefined to a very great extent.The preparations for welcoming Ma Durga, the Goddess of Power, for the forthcoming year starts almost as soon as the pujo for the current year gets over.
There is a lot of competition now between the different colonies (called “paras” in Bengal) who work day in and day out towards setting up the best possible pandal. Because of the increasing competition, the artists (also known as “shilpis”) are coming up with the best they have every year, thus making the pujas memorable for every Calcuttan. There have been pandals made with kulhads (the little clay cups), discarded records, utensils, wires, hay, even biscuits.
Most of the shopping hubs of Kolkata are crowded with people about a month prior to the pujas and during the main five days it seems as if the entire city is on roads. However, neither the heat nor the crowd stops the locals from filing their shopping bags for this festival.
Along with durga puja comes a feeling of joy, togetherness and love. One will see the use of vibrant lighting everywhere, the smell of food coming from the small road side stalls, and the sound of drums (called “dhaks”).
With the increasing awareness on abatement of pollution, pandal creators and puja organizers are taking necessary measures to ensure that the celebrations’ contribution towards environmental degradation is minimal.Needless to say, it is at this time of the year that the collective spirit of the city really shines through. It is now that people get a yearly reminder that Calcutta really is the City of Joy. It is now that the city pulsates with energy and rhythm, transforming the mood of the city altogether.