Durga Pujo for Bengali’s is not just a religious festival .It’s also a socio-cultural melting pot.Even if you are not a Bengali ,if you are in Kolkata, the pujo fervor is contagious.
You can go anywhere in the world, but there’s nothing like Durga pujo in West Bengal. If you ever want to see a festival which everyone enjoys,you must visit West Bengal this time of the year. If you can handle the crowds, come visit me in Kolkata and I will show you how glorious the pujo spirit actually is.
Take a flight from anywhere and come to Kolkata .But you will need to be openminded because it is overwhelming. Having an enriching experience will depend on you.If Kolkata during Durga Pujo is not on your bucket list, put it there now.
I got married while studying for postgrads in Delhi.The first pujo after my marriage,we rushed from Delhi to Kolkata on Shasthi morning. The flights meant we could do our duties till early morning on Shashti, catch a flight and be in Kolkata in no time.
Once in Kolkata first the exchange of gifts, oohs and aahs of sarees, Kurtis and my haul of the handcrafted bangles, necklaces and rings I bought from Dilli Haat.
Then we would all go to our favorite Saree shop for last moment buys. The quick beauty parlor visit, very helpful with Lakme salon nearby, got me pujo ready in a hurry. Hair,pedicure, manicure and a detan facial is the basic minimum.
After the planning of the pujo outfit,came the pandal hopping plans. During those days before we had the baby in tow, we did the entire thing. From north, central to south Kolkata. Walking and hiring taxis in between. The most important thing was comfortable shoes and drinking water.
Food option are everywhere.The tremendous amount of walking needed for a pujo parikrama, is not for the faint-hearted .The best way to exercise,all the while eating your way through Kolkata’s gastronomic offering.Navratri in the rest of India means a lot of fasting and people write a lot about fasting food .In West Bengal, we actually feast, be it vegetarian options or non-veg.Simple explanation.It’s complicated!
The Durga Pujo Bhoj
If you are visiting friends or family with a good community pujo in the Apartment complex or para, try to taste a fresh Bhog platter.The khichudi will be what 5-star chefs dream of making. The smell of flowers, burning lamps and incense sticks mixed with ginger and dried spices, makes a delicious bhog.The taste is sublime and can only be understood, by those who have had it.
Together with this, there’s often an assortment of bhaji or vegetable fritters and mixed veggies, which specializes in being a little mashed up, spicy and delicious . The bhog cooking is not a child’s play and the thakur(cook), is much sought after.
The community will judge the pujo,on the face of Maa Durga and taste of its bhog .All the rest come into the picture after these two are ticked. This taste typically comes form the fragrance of the many dried spices and the agarbaati or Dhup.
The Durga Pujo food guide in Kolkata
Bengali’s enjoy their food and except for Aashtami,its nonvegeterian all the way.But if you are vegeterian don’t worry,most of the Bengali food places also have an extensive vegetarian thaali too.
If it’s the casual food joints you must visit
- Biriyani from Arsalan
- Newmarket Aminia
Hatari’s chowmein and sweet and sour roast duck at Krystal chopsticks.
For the best phuchka in town
- You can visit the ones around Vivekananda Park, near Southern Avenue. They also have the best doi phuchka.
- The traditional phuchka, made by the phuchkawala at the Lake road and Sarat Bose Road crossing, is amazing too. His churmur, tangy mashed potatoes with boiled semi-mashed chickpeas, spice blends, and tamarind water is spot on.You can opt for lemon water, if you are not sure your tummy can handle the tamarind. But sour and spicy it must be .
Try the aadrak waali chai at Maharaani or Maharaaja.
Paratha waali galli at Lake View Road, after the famous haunt.
Bengali Cuisine to die for
- Visit 6 Ballygunj place near Ballygunj Phaari or Salt lake.Both great for family outings.
Always a favorite for their authentic Bengali cuisine and deliciously cooked bhaapa ilish .
- Oh Calcutta! for the Bengali lunch buffet
- Bijoli Grill on Southern Avenue if budget is a concern and you still want the authentic Bengali taste.
- Want to Bengali,with a twist visit Marco Polo.They also have continental cuisine on offer.
- Aaheli at The Peerless Inn.
- The Corner Courtyard at Landsdown.
- Mocambo Park street.
- Flurys Park street.
- Peter Cat for Chelo kabab platters. Park Street.
- Mainland China in South City Mall.
- Visit Tangra,for authentic Chinese food.
Benjarong South City Mall.The appetisers are interesting.
Ecstasy Lake Road.
Other than the famous rosogolla Kolkata sweet shops, have a range of delicious sweets.Mentioning a few of my favorites like chanar jilipi, chaana pora ,jol bhora, makha sandesh ,kaancha golla ,mihidana,sita bhog,cham cham.
- Extra special Jivey ganja at Bancharaam.
- Radharam Mallick & Balaram Mallick’s chocolate mishtI.
- Mishti Doi at Jugal’s :my favorite.
- Putiram :mihidaana.
Interesting cooling drinks
Paramount near College Square
Coco Malai and Daab shorbot
Musings for the socially conscious
Durga pujo festival,budgets go sky high, with sponsorship and the mandatory pujo chanda ,But this is an opportunity for many artisans and creative artists, to showcase their work world over .Pujo pandals and idols are constantly covered by live TV and social media.Many artisans get booked for overseas work, after many probashi see their work beamed.
Durga Pujo has a lot of excesses and may seem commercialized in many aspects.But once you stand in front of Maa Durga with folded hands, everything drops away.You close your eyes ,pray for peace and love to fill everyone’s heart. She is a strict mommy.A mommy who can kill evil forces,but she is a mother after all.
A very Happy Durga pujo to all of you. Pray and may Maa Durga’s blessings reach you.
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This is also a part of the #BloggersDurgaPujo series.