Durga Puja in Kolkata

Although folklores say that the first grand celebration of Durga Puja was initiated by the ‘zamindars’ (landlords) of Dinajpur and Malda in the late 15th century but a popular tale suggests that origin of collective celebration of Durga Puja festival dates back to 1790 AD, when 12 friends got together and organized a ‘baro-yari’ (12 comrades) puja. The ten day long festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Ashwin, typically September or October of the Georgian calendar. It is observed by Bengali, Odia, Maithilis and Assamese people as a socio-cultural and religious festival.

The traditional icon of the goddess worshiped during Durga Puja is in line with the iconography delineated in the scriptures. The gods bestowed their powers to beautiful Goddess Durga with ten arms, each carrying their most lethal weapon. The tableau of Durga also features her four children—Kartikeya, Ganesha, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. Traditional clay image or ‘pratima’ (idol), featuring all five gods and goddesses in one structure, is known as 'ek-chala'. The huge temporary canopies held by a framework of bamboo poles and draped with colorful fabric—that house the icons are called 'pandals’. The artistic and decorated modern ‘pandals’ offer a visual spectacle for the numerous visitors who go on 'pandal-hopping' during the four days of Durga Puja. The city of Kolkata glitters up in lights, music and colors of joy and celebrations. People come from different parts of the state West Bengal and line up before ‘pandal’ to take a view of the idols crafted very skillfully and inventively maintaining the theme of the pandal. Even as Kolkata’s Durga Puja has changed immensely since it first took modern shape in the 18th century, its core has been preserved.

The first day of the festival, “Mahalaya”, marks the end of “Pitri Pokkha” (Pitripaksha in Sanskrit & Hindi) and the beginning of “Devi Pokkha”. The legend has been immortalized in the voice of late Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose rendition is recited early in the morning on the day of Mahalaya. Furthermore, through recitation of the verses and ‘mantras’ (hymns), the Goddess is invoked to come on the earth to destroy all evil. The five days of Puja begin with the welcome of Devi Durga with ‘dhak’, ‘dhunuchi’ and ‘shiuli’. ‘Bodhon’ (welcome) rituals are performed on Sashthi. Saptami features the first dip in the holy Ganges of ‘Kala Bow’ (wife of Ganesha). Maha Ashtami celebrates Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasur. Devotees offer ‘pushpanjali’ (showering flowers), recite mantras and offer flowers to Devi Durga. Nabami (Navami in Sanskrit) is commencement of ‘Sandhi Puja’ with Nabami Bhog. Food is offered to Goddess Durga and then distributed among the devotees. The festival ends with Vijaya Dashmi. It is said that Goddess Durga leaves for her return to Mount Kailash. “Sindoor Khela” is a major event of Dashami. Married women apply vermilion to each other and greet each other with sweets. With heavy heart Bengalis immerse the idol of Durga in the sacred Ganges.

The journey of Maa Durga, as she steps on earth from Kailash, is said to be her journey with her children to their maternal uncle’s house. Inspired by spiritual spirit, these ten days are endowed with complete leisure and joyous union of family and friends for everyone in the city. The Durga Puja festival and its cultural significance hold a special place in every Bengali’s heart. The Bengali faithful embrace the cultural values of the festival by exchanging jingles like “Ma aasche ghore-ekti bochor pore-pujo bari te bajlo dhak-lekha pora tola thak”. However, the frenzied warmth and excitement, the festival brings to the “City of Joy”, is felt by non Bengalis also.

Historian Sukanta Chaudhuri mentions that high level British officials regularly attended and participated in Durga Pujas, organized by influential Bengalis. He reported that even East India Company’s auditor-general John Chips organized Durga Puja at his Birbhum office. The full official participation of the British in Durga Puja continued till 1840 AD.

A dominant culture finds ways to perpetuate its dominance. This is achieved with the help of an ideology that gives the dominance a degree of legitimacy. Thus, elaborate narratives are constructed and then accorded the sanctity of religion. Durga Puja is the worship of ‘shakti’, the divine power. The myth is about the fight between the evil and the good. Mahishasur, the Buffalo Demon, through years of praying received blessings from Lord Brahma, that no power can kill him which gave him the status of immortal and invincible. As Mahishasur received power he started ravaging the whole world by killing all kinds of human life on earth. The demon also wanted to uproot the gods. Realizing the danger on & sorry plight, the humans & gods combined their powers to create a beautiful damsel. Then, the gods placed their most potent weapons in one of the ten hands of the deity who was riding on a lion. After receiving power and weapon from the gods, she slew the evil demon Mahisasura. It is characterized as win of good over evil.

So, the belief system of people reflects the power structure prevalent at a particular point of time, and ensures the continuation of that structure. Our modern minds keep looking for rationality and meaning in every cultural aspect and societal structure. While moving through different ‘pandals’, one can notice men performing rituals and offering prayers with utmost devotion. Then, why is a woman treated differently when she is not made up of clay but flesh and blood? “Mahalaya” is believed to be the day that marks the beginning of Devi Paksha. Only a woman was capable of killing the demon. Goddess Durga, considered not only deity but also a ‘Mother’, is worshipped for courage and strength. She had been enthused with powers of the gods and stepped out to battlefield to fight against Mashishasura.

As the city decks up and prepares to welcome Mother Durga once again with joy and excitement let us all be hopeful that the goddess terminates the dogmatic convoluted thoughts of the society amidst the merriment. “Tam agni varnam tapasa jvalantim, Vairochanim karma-phalesu jushtam, Durgam devim sharnam aham, Prapadye , sutari tarasa namaha ll”

Activities in Durga Puja: Durga Puja is celebrated all across India during Shardiya Navratri (Navratri of winter) but Kolkata in West Bengal is the most coveted destination to see this festival in its most exuberant forms. Not only the devotees visit Kolkata during Durga Puja but even foreign tourists, interested to observe the cultural colors of India, also reach there in large numbers. In many parts of India, during these nine days, Ramlila is organized. Durga Puja in Kolkata is not merely a religious event but also a socio-cultural function.

Visit Pandals: Durga Puja is celebrated with great fanfare in West Bengal. During Durga Puja, one can find ‘pandals’ erected almost in every street of Kolkata. These ‘pandals’ are built in different designs, inspired by various themes and decorated profusely. Also, the statues of Goddess Durga, established inside ‘pandals’, are also made in different ways forms, without compromising on depiction of “Mahishasurmardini”.

Savour Tasty Foods: Though the faithful observe the festival with utter austerity but, for visitors, Durga Puja happens to be a festival of foods as well. A visitor, tired of walking around the ‘pandals’ and felt hungry, need not go any far in search of tasty food. Many food stalls, inside & outside the ‘pandals’, are installed that serve not only delicious Bengali dishes but also popular cuisines of many other parts of India. Even Chinese and ‘continental’ foods are also readily available.

Join Kanya (Kumari) Puja: A very sacred ritual, Kanya Puja or Kumari Puja, during Durga Puja is performed on Ashtami & Navami ‘tithis’(dates). It is basically worshipping girls aged between one year & eight years. These girls are considered to be goddesses, seated in front of the statue of Mother Durga and worshipped. In Kolkata, Kumari Puja is organized on the Ashtami day. The best venue to observe Kumari Puja in Kolkata is Belur Math.

Cultural Carnival: Though celebrated with fervor & zeal, Durga Puja, a religious festival, evinces ample elements of a fair too. It is clearly manifested in kinds of entertaining contests like fancy dress competition, singing competition, music & dance competition, best dressed male & female competition. Roam around and explore various ‘pandals’ being dressed properly to luckily get an opportunity to be participant and win prizes as well.

Sindoor Khela: The last day of Durga Puja is also very special. After grand worship ceremony, the idols of Mother Durga are taken in the form a procession to River Ganga in Kolkata. In other places, where Ganga is not available, the idols are taken to nearby river or revered water-body. The idols are submerged in the water. But, before departure of the statues of Mother Durga, the married women play ‘Holi’ of vermilion (Sindoor). They apply ‘sindoor’ to each other as a symbol of happiness and good-luck. It really offers excellent opportunities for taking memorable photographs.

Dates & Schedule of Durga Puja


Begins On (Date)

Ends On (Date)

2019 October 04 (Friday) October 08 (Tuesday)
2020 October 22 (Thursday) October 26 (Monday)
2021 October 11 (Monday) October 15 (Friday)
2022 October 01 (Saturday) October 05 (Wednesday)

Kolkata Tour Packages

Golden Triangle with Kolkata Tour

Golden Triangle with Kolkata Tour

6 Nights / 7 Days
Destination : Delhi-Jaipur-Agra-Kolkata

Kolkata Weekend Tour

Kolkata Weekend Tour

2 Nights / 3 Days
Destination : Kolkata

East India with Nepal Tour

East India with Nepal Tour

13 Nights / 14 Days
Destination : Delhi- Khajuraho – Varanasi – Bodhgaya –Bhubaneswar –Puri – Konark – Kolkata – Kathmandu –Bhaktpur - Patan

View All

Enquire Now

Enquire Now