Posts Tagged: festival

Durga Puja 2014






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Durga Puja is the biggest festival for Bengalis all over the world. Wherever there are Bengalis there is bound to be at least one puja. I grew up 1000s of km away from bengal. I have never seen the Durga Puja in Kolkata. For me this is very grand. When I was young we had three pujas in my city. Now there are almost 20 of them, with the home puja celebrating its 75th year. It is the time that Bengalis believe that Ma Durga visits her mothers house with her children and pets for 5 days. Strangely for us bengalis these days Durga puja is not much about the rituals of the puja but more of the fun around it. Could be our Communist heritage 😀 .

Puja always meant a lot. It was a shift away from the mundane life to an exciting interesting and different life that we led for 5 days. Puja meant new clothes, new shoes, lots of junk food (which I was never allowed) and watching functions…. plays, ballets, orchestras, musical shows, dance dramas and Bengali movies till the wee hours of the morning, only to go back for a few hours of shut-eye and be back for the pushpanjali. Functions had orchestras and artistes from Kolkata introducing the likes of me to new genres of music. I fell in love with folk music because of its rustic nature and I loved the no pretense song of the heart.

Durga Puja was a time when I was reminded of my Bengali roots and learned everything Bengali in those 5 short days. Bengali food, Bengali sarees, Bengali love for politics and football, Bengali debates on everything, Bengali adda etc…. Rest of the year I spoke Bengali only at home with my parents and sisters. It was mostly English Hindi and Marathi. On these 5 days since we interacted with so many more Bengalis and spoke the language on a 24 hour basis…… the language improved considerably. The puja is almost like a fashion show with the men and women strutting around in their best clothes jewellery and makeup. Saris of Katha, tangail, silk, organza, embroidery, baluchari, south silks, muga, etc etc all can be seen on these days. Men wear kurtas and dhoti or churidar of cotton silk embroidered batik. There is no limit to what you wear on these days. You can easily get away looking like a rainbow or a peacock or a jewellery store or something out of the 17th century. Nobody will raise an eyebrow….. These 5 days everything is allowed….. no rules.

On the home front nobody cooks these 5 days. The kitchen is closed. Lunch is usually bhog of khichdi labda tomato chutney and payesh at the pandal. Ashtami is special. It usually has a different menu of fried rice and aloo gobi and beguni. All of this in the Puja Pandal. Dinner is usually a wide array of junk food of biryanis, chicken cutlets, or mochar chop, devilled eggs, or radhabalabi and chole. Not to mention the famous bengali sweets…..  rosogolla, chamcham, sandesh, ladyginni, chitrakoot, langcha etc etc. The food list is endless. In between all this you keep sipping tea and soft drinks icecreams and some or the other fried stuff and sweets. Basically these 5 days all rules of all kinds are broken.

Durga Puja is fun frolic something I wait for all year. The 5 days pass so quickly…… and I am always heartbroken to see Ma Durga go back only with a promise of returning back the next year.

Durga Puja is always so colorful and bright. I tried to monochrome three of the pics and still keep the essence of the whole festival in black and white.

Sindoor Khela

Sindoor khela is part and parcel of the last day of celebrations of the Durga Puja. This is performed in front of the idol of the Goddess before she departs for her in-laws place. The sindoor (vermilion) is a mark of married life and applied on the forehead. On this day married women apply sindoor to the idol of the goddess and then every married woman goes around applying it on each other’s forehead and on iron bangles. The significance of this ritual is to pray for longevity of the life of the husband and peace and prosperity of the family. The color red signifies matrimonial bliss among Hindus. 

Hands making an “X” 

Shivratri at home

Last week we had Shivratri Pooja at home. We usually do it on the Shiva Lingams. My father was the designated priest. The Shivratri Pooja entails fasting the whole day…….. sometimes the previous day and the next day as well. Depends on the austerity of the rituals you wish to follow. The pooja takes place at the last prahar of the day or anything between 930 and midnight. My grandfathers both side usually did it at midnight……. but dad cheated improvised a little as we were all hungry tired and could not sustain any longer…… and did it earlier than usual. The Shiva Lingams are bathed in milk, yogurt, ghee, (clarified butter) honey, and sugar…… ie the panchamrit and lastly water. The offering of bel leaves and bel fruit is given and then lastly flowers, fruits and sweets. Lastly we pray for peace health and happiness of the whole family.

Getting Creative : Rangoli

Rangoli is one of the traditional art forms of Indians. Decorative designs depicting pics or geometric patterns depicting the religious festival for which it is done. These designs are done in front of the deity or in front of the doors and main entrances as form of welcome.  Each design or pattern depicts a certain deity and other associated things with the festival. Most of these designs have been passed on from generations with alterations over a period of time. The patterns that I have done have been taught to me by my mother who was taught by her mother and grandmother and so on forth. Every Indian household has their own version of Rangoli.

 Rangolis are done with different mediums – Alpana the traditional Bengali rangoli is done with rice and water paste and done with the ring finger (by pressing a cotton ball in the palm by the thumb). There are various differences in patterns among the bengalis itself. Just by looking at the pattern you can say from which part of bengal the alpana is originally from. In my case I usually do alpana during the Kojagiri Lakshmi festival.

Rangoli is also done with colored sand. I usually do this kind during Diwali and Dhanteras. In South of India the Rangoli is done with flowers or rice or other mediums. Geometric patterns are used for the vedic poojas no idols are used. Even the base of every havan there is a certain geometric pattern that is used. A different one for a different pooja. Usually it is the swastik or lotus as the base. More info in Wiki here.

Alpana done with rice and water paste

Rangoli done with powdered colored sand during diwali.
Posting it in Tina’s PicStory 38 : Creative

Kumari Puja

During Durgotsav, Goddess Durga is worshipped in all feminine forms – Shakti, Shanti, Mother, sister and Daughter…… Kumari (unmarried girl). Little girls of age 3 to 9 are dressed up in the solah singars with alankars (jewellery) like bangles, earrings, necklace, Maang tika, bindi…… I honestly wouldn’t be able to translate all of them for you to sum it……. she is dressed like a bride and then the priest prays to her as he would to the Goddess. She is offered flowers, food of her choice (even Chocolates), incense and arati is done of her like it would be done of the Goddess. The best part of the whole thing is that the little girl then gets to bless everybody. I find it really hilarious when the little girl is asked to hold the shanti mudra and bless people who are more than 10 to 20 times her age.

Out of all the Kumaris that I have taken pics of during Durgotsav this little girl has captured my heart forever. She was so calm and serene all through the rituals……. probably bribed big time by her parents but the end result was beautiful. I was so enamored by her that I just couldn’t stop taking pics of her……. very very photogenic I have rarely seen a little girl of her age so patient and calm.

and  then, she {snapped}
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