Durga puja is a festival celebrated in south Asia and is celebrated in various states of India but to truly experience this festival, the best place to go is Kolkata. Kolkata is in West Bengal and the festival of durga puja is celebrated to embark the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil demon Mahishasura. In other words Durga puja depicts the victory of good over the evil. The festival lasts for 5 days. If you wish to enjoy the Durga Puja in the City of Joy, then you must visit a week before the actual festival and see all the preparations for yourself.
Making of the Idols: If you enjoy art and handcrafted idols, then Kumartuli is a place for you. Nothing best than watching the idols of Goddess Durga being made. Kumartuli is a small town just 30 minutes drive from city center. Kumartuli was settled by the potters and about 150 families live there by now. Visit this place during the ritual of Choku Daan as during that time potters starts the most crucial work i.e. paint eyes on the idols of goddess Durga.
Pandal hopping: Visiting different pandals of Goddess Durga decorated with a unique theme is referred to as pandal Hopping. As there are thousands of Pandals, each decorated with a unique theme, it is not possible to visit each and every one. Best thing to do is, choose a part of the city and walk around to look at all the Pandals there. Visit the pandals at night and get a good view of all the different themes as they are all lit up at night. If you plan to visit there during the day, you will find lesser crowd as compared to the night time. Try to get VIP passes to avoid the long queues.
Food: Bengalis are famous for their love for good food and Durga festival is a just another excuse to enjoy wide variety of delicious Bengali cuisine.You can even enjoy 5 day open air food festival during this time. Restaurants even offer special pooja fare. Try to book in advance to avoid the long queues outside the restaurants as they are flooded with people and it is not easy to get a table.
Kola Bou bath: On the seventh day of Navratri, Durga puja officially gets underway early in the morning of Saptami. A special kind of ritual is performed to infuse the energy of the Goddess into the idols. This is performed with the help of a small banana plant known as Kola Bou or the banana bride. As the Kola bou is purified and bathed in the river, Mantras are recited by the priests and then by draping the kola bou in a sari with red border, it is placed along with the idol of Lord Ganesha. Many people consider Kola bou as Ganesha’s wife. Best time and place to watch this ritual is 6 am at the north Kolkata ghats of Bagbazar and Airitolla.
Immersion of the Idols: Saying goodbye to the beloved Goddess Durga on Vijaya Dashami is a popular tradition. The immersion of the idols looks similar to the immersion of Ganesha idols on Ganesh chaturthi. Women initiates this process by applying red sindoor to the idol and then to each other. Immersion is done in the evening and the most popular immersion ghat is the Babu Ghat located near Eden Garden. A perfect way to witness this process is by the boat.