It is that time of the year and the air in Bengal is smeared with a festive extravaganza that is unlike any part of India. Everything about this season is festive and joyous. With series of Maa Durga idols waiting to be adorned , the relentless efforts of all the people working hard to make the show come alive in a few days, the Kash phool adorning the river banks and that smell in the air are some of the things that give goose bumps to any Bengali living near and far. With so much festivity around I fondly recall my childhood days back in Gangtok where a 10 day holiday at school meant the bestest time of the year. Living in Gangtok felt like what most of the Probashi Bengalis (Nonresident Bengalis) feel about the celebrations that take place during this time of the year back home. However, for me things were better as every year we celebrated Durga Puja in this quaint little town of Jalpaiguri in Northern part of Bengal which is very close to Gangtok.
Amidst such celebration and festivity what I realized is that Durga Puja is definitely a festival worth waiting for and it is one such instance where the wait is much more thrilling than the festival itself. Go ahead and read these clear cut signs that build up the real excitement of Durga Puja:
Bengalis have this weird sense of predicting things much ahead of its occurrence. For instance, at the slightest hint of a clear blue sky, pleasant cool breeze, and scattered white clouds, a Bengali will announce to the world Maa aschhen( Maa Durga is coming home). It has now become sort of a ritual with us, clear blue sky, cool breeze and scattered clouds equate to Durga Puja. Doesn’t really matter if it rains the next day but as soon as the sun rises again and there’s this blue sky with scattered clouds we will again reassure ourselves “Maa aschhen.” You get it right? Repeat after me –
Clear blue sky +Cool breeze + Scattered clouds = Durga Puja is round the corner.
Kaash Phool or the Kans grass (Saccharum Spontaneum) is something every Bengali will identify Durga Puja with. Kaash Phool is a type of grass that grows during this season and is mainly found along the banks of the rivers. The sight of Kash Phool will send any Bengali into a nostalgic frenzy and all you will hear is long sighs of “ Ahh! Kaash Phool, Maa aschhen (Maa Durga is coming home). I had always seen these swaying white pieces of wonder grow along the banks of river Teesta as we descended from Gangtok to the plains and every time I would be spellbound by their beauty . This year I visited the banks of River Teesta just to collect these lovely white feather like grass and brought them home only to regret collecting them at all. My entire home felt like it got covered in white snowflakes only these didn’t melt or disappear. Ohh! What a pain it was cleaning the entire mess! But I still love Kaash phool because,
Kaash Phool = Durga Puja is round the corner.
The beauty of unfinished idols.
Once the Puja starts it’s all about braving the crowd, pandal hopping and staring at those beautiful idols of Maa Durga with her entourage of Kartik, Ganesha, Saraswati and Lakshmi in the best of attire. But what is noteworthy is the amount of effort and creativity that goes into making these magnificent idols out of mere clay, water, and colours. Looking at those narrow alleys that are a temporary home to these idols has been and shall remain one of those things that awaken the spirit of festivity in every Bengali alive. Therefore,
Work in Progress idols = Durga Puja is round the corner.
Those Work in Progress Pandals.
Durga Puja Pandals are nothing less than an absolute specimen of art. A lot of people toil for hours in the sun, rain, shade and storm to create these absolutely stunning pieces of architecture. These pandals are inspired from a wide range of structures. For instance, from creating a replica of Taj Mahal to recreating the magic of a farfetched village in Bengal these artisans can create anything. Some of these pandals are also built on the lines of a theme such as creating awareness about female foeticide or supporting the cause of education for all or even creating pandals from scrap and eco-friendly materials. The sad part about these pandals are that they will be dismantled once the celebrations are over but for now let’s just revel at the sight of these wonders that look nothing less than some Bollywood movie set and appreciate the immense effort and precision that goes into bringing them to life for us to enjoy and create memories. Thus, if you happen to spot an unfinished pandal in making know that Durga Puja is round the corner. Therefore,
An unfinished Pandal = Durga Puja is round the corner
Who can say No to such large scale shopping?
I empathize with all those Bong men who patiently stand for hours outside the women’s trial rooms waiting just to approve what their wives or daughters or sisters choose to buy (not that their approval matters much). Trust me these are the best men in the world the doting husbands, fathers, sons and brothers because I know men who would never find any joy in shopping for their better halves leave aside others. Durga Puja is such a time when we buy clothes not just for ourselves but for our extended families too. Every Bong kid no matter how old he gets will never refrain from asking one question to every person he meets during this time of the year “Koyta Jama holo?” “How many pairs of new clothes have you managed to collect?” Yes, we collect new clothes from our parents, paternal/maternal uncles, aunts, brothers/sisters/cousins who earn and from grandparents. The bigger the count the better it is. Therefore, if you come across this question of “Koyta Jama Holo?”, then know that Durga Puja is round the corner. Hence,
“Koyta Jama Holo?” = Durga Puja is round the corner.
Mahalaya, Birendra Krishna Bhadra and Mahisasura Mardini.
Last but not the least a definitive sign that Durga Puja has finally arrived and the wait is almost over. Every Bengali no matter where he is cannot miss the enigmatic rendition of Mahisasura Mardini by the legendary Birendra Krishna Bhadra on an early Mahalaya morning. Therefore if you hear “ Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu….” know that Durga Puja is round the corner because:
Mahalaya + Mahisasura Mardini Broadcast + Birendra Krishna Bhadra = Durga Puja is round the corner
All of the above was written in light humor (if you could locate that in the sentences). I love Durga Puja from the deepest core of my heart and I love waiting for it all year long. This year is special because I am home after a long exile and detachment from these celebrations. I am already going crazy over the new dresses, amazing food to be eaten and all the pandal hopping that has to be done. Meanwhile, I wish to celebrate Durga Puja 2016 a little differently, this time giving joy to one person who isn’t as fortunate as me. On my way to a small village on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri, I saw this small hut where a beautiful young girl lives with her family. They barely have enough tin sheets to build a shelter and call it a home. I wish to gift her new pair of clothes and shoes and probably bring some happiness on her face. I wish to do this for a larger number of people once I am able to until then I will simply try to bring a smile on one person’s face at a time this festive season. Wish me luck!
Until then you all have a wonderful Durga Puja and do not refrain from spreading joy to people who may not be as fortunate as us. Let me know about your experiences of Durga Puja in the comments I shall be happy to read them.
Joy Maa Durga!