Durga Puja


As the much-awaited festive season fills the air with excitement and joy, we’ve got you covered with a thrilling and famous adventure – exploring Durga Puja in the capital city. Here’s how you can make the best of this celebration.

The festival of Navratri, coinciding with a long weekend, presents the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Durga pandals across the city. Delhi offers a multitude of places to explore during this time, making it difficult to manage your schedule for the upcoming three to four days. The ambiance here is so distinct that it envelops you in an aura of auspiciousness. From the well-known ‘Mini Kolkata’ in CR Park to newer ones in Dwarka, Gurgaon, and Noida, the list is extensive. However, what is Navaratri without indulging in the tradition of visiting pandals?

When you step into one of the puja setups, you are welcomed by the resounding beat of dhols and other traditional instruments. The night sky is adorned with colourful lights, and the streets come alive with decorations of fresh marigolds and mango leaves. Small vendors sell balloons, masks, and toys that inevitably catch the eye of every child, while stalls are set up for jewellery, sarees, handcrafted gifts, and paintings – catering to the tastes of both artists and shoppers.

Puja celebrations are also a treat for your taste buds as there are multiple stalls offering a variety of delicacies, ranging from traditional Bengali snacks and sweets like mishti doi and khichdi to spicy chaat and tikki and other North Indian dishes.

The main highlight of these setups is the idols of the Goddess Durga and Kali, a sight reserved for once a year. The divine clay idols, adorned with intricate details, reflect both the feminine and masculine qualities of the Goddess. While her beautiful lotus-like eyes and long black hair exhibit her eternal beauty and gentleness, the weapons and chariot symbolize her courage and valour.

Beyond their religious significance and their role as sources of divine power and positivity, these idols are special because they reflect the hard work and creativity of skilled artisans, who begin preparing them months in advance. Various rituals are performed during Durga Puja, offering the perfect chance to students to experience the culture of  Navaratri celebrations. 

Once you’re convinced that this can be an exciting and distinctive activity, you can plan your days accordingly. Start by selecting a traditional or glamorous outfit that suits your style and wear comfortable footwear since there will be a lot of walking. Don’t forget to carry a water bottle! Make a list of the places you want to visit, note their opening hours, and plan your route for convenience.

Now, let me introduce you to the places you can visit during these five days, the Timarpur and Civil Lines Durga Puja Samiti. This Samiti has been organizing pandals since 1914, making it the city’s second-oldest setup after the Kashmere Gate Puja Samiti. In a conversation with the President of the organizing committee, Sukhangshu Chatterjee, we learned that during British rule, when the capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, many government servants from Bengal migrated to Delhi. They brought with them the tradition of celebrating Durga Puja, a four-day festival from Maha Shashti to Maha Navami. Government employees living in the Timarpur area initiated Durga Puja celebrations, and now, this pandal is over 100 years old but still continues to keep the legacy of puja alive.

 To reach here, you can take the nearest metro to Vishwavidyalaya and then, take an e-rickshaw to Timarpur colony. The pandal is relatively small, with the Devi’s idol at the centre and a stage for cultural events on the left. There’s also an alley dedicated to food stalls. 

Over the years, the pandal has adapted to contemporary changes, featuring unique themes each season, to convey a message through the representation of the goddess. Maa Durga is worshipped with her four children: Kartikeya, Ganesha, Laxmi, and Saraswati. The clay image that represents all four children, along with Durga, is perched atop her vahana or carrier, the lion, with the slain asura, Mahishasura near her left foot.

This year’s theme represents the form of Mahishasura Mardini in the background, while the front structure portrays Durga and her children in simple attire, symbolizing her visit to her father’s home from the abode of Kailasha. Her human-like resemblance serves to highlight the presence of human emotions in the divine and the presence of god-like attributes in every human. Just as Durga can take on the form of Mahishasura Mardini when necessary to combat evil, humans too can overcome negativity around them. The message is to spread positivity and goodness, in times of conflict and cruelty.

 On a personal note, I found attending the Agamani ceremony, a celebration of the Goddess’s arrival, to be an incredibly uplifting and spiritual experience. The rhythmic beats of the dhol and the serene recitation of mantras created an atmosphere of anticipation as everyone eagerly awaited a glimpse of Maa Durga. Throughout these four days, there will be numerous such rituals which are not to be skipped amidst all the other fun activities. 

Timarpur Puja pandal will also host a wide variety of performances, from live orchestras and street plays to traditional dance forms, in an attempt to bring people together for this annual gathering. 

The doors are open to visitors from all communities, and the festivities are not restricted to the Bengali community. The organizing committee aims to include everyone while sharing their culture with them. During our conversations, we also discovered that many visitors were once residents of the Timarpur colony and have been returning to the place for over 50 years, even after moving to other parts of the city. It’s their dedication and devotion which makes the place special for them, as well as the visitors.  

Timarpur Puja is just one of the many places in Delhi with stories, memories, and traditions that are upheld by people as a part of their commitment to their culture.

CR Park, Minto Road Pandal, Arambgarh, and Safdarjung Enclave pandals are some of the other beautifully decorated pandals in the city that should be on your list as well. 

So, don’t wait any longer, and give your mood an instant lift with one of the season’s most exciting activities. Leave café-hopping aside for a while, as it’s time for pandal-hopping! Shubh Navaratri.

Read also https://dubeat.com/2014/10/04/durga-puja-city-djinns/

Image Credits – Google Images 

Priya Agrawal

The festival of Durga Puja is not just a celebration of the homecoming of the goddess but also a cultural bonhomie, celebrating art of all sorts. Read on for more.

 Durga Puja or as we bengalis fondly call it pujo, is probably the greatest celebration of art Calcutta sees on an annual basis. There might be special art drives in the Lake area where people end up drawing twelve feet long alponas (the bengali version of rangoli but done with ground rice paste traditionally) and bizarrely absurd, politically provocative graffitis on walls along the Jadavpur campus and other upcoming up-market cafe areas. There is also the latest mandatory tourist spot – the Old Currency Building, now turned into a three floor specially curated celebration of the Bengal School of Art – from colonial times to independent India. But none of these sporadic clusters exemplify the community euphoria in viewing and consuming art the way pujo does.

It is a cultural whirlpool. Turn a corner and you will see an entire alley, otherwise dingily darkened – now turned bright and dreamy with a canopy of yellow fairy lights hanging overhead. A few more turns and you will see a variation of the same display of luminosity in terms of a street where the lights are now multi-coloured and are strung together vertically, on either side of the road. As you make your way through, it is not just a simple lane you are walking through any more. It is like walking into the dreamscape of your unposted letters of love, now strung together in the form of a million glistening light orbs. But the magicality of the moment I described – nowhere near the actual experience because pujo as a festival can only be felt – is exemplified further in areas with the bigger pandals and celebrations where the canopy is no longer just strings of light bound together. But an entire canopy put together in glorious designs and colours. You are no longer in a street you have traversed all year round. It is a tunnel of a fantasy land from another world, which self activates every year briefly and disappears – only to appear bigger and brighter the next year.

Who is the sculptor of this figure? Did this club change their usual guy? Is Sanantan Dinda doing Naktala this year or did Chetla Agrani buy him out? Why did they have to distort the face thus? Doesn’t she look too angry in this one?

 A cacophony of voices asking the same questions together. Having spent so many years in the city and vehemently holding my ground before parents who would have much preferred to go on a holiday – far removed from the nauseating sweat and crowd infestations of the festival – I like many others have become quite familiar with the varied sculptural styles we see our idols built in. Kumortuli or the Potter’s Colony is the stuff of absolute photo stories across the world.

But the potters or sculptors as I prefer calling them, who spend their many years under makeshift shacks in the midst of floodwater and mud, have their own distinctive styles and contributions to the evolution of the festival as a whole. The traditional yellow face of the goddess with long draw, darkly lined eyes is still to be seen in many places, but in the larger discourse of the creation of idols, it has give way to the more humanist thickly eyelash-ed faces of the Rudra Pal brothers – who now are at the receiving end of commissions from the biggest clubs in the city.

Thousands of people flock every year to see these idols, which although unchanged in their style have served to give vision to the popular imagination of what the goddess looks like. Their figures are adorned in the traditional golden foil called the daaker shaaj or the ornament that came by post (the foil used to be imported from Germany at one point) or the pristine white of the sholaar shaaj or the ornamentation made from thermocol. Art historians will never consider this but the potters of Calcutta are the true holders of the legacy of Ravi Varma, the first Indian to give face to our gods. But even beyond these traditional portrayals there are daring artists like Bhashkar Sur and Sanatan Dinda, all exemplary modern artists in their own right who come up with visualisations of the goddess figure in accordance with the theme of the club they are hired by that year.

Which brings me to the next big thing about pujo in my city – the theme. Much before people even start their shopping for the festival, posters and advertisements proudly announcing the themes for each individual club go around the city. People sitting huddled in autos are found discussing-

Did you hear Chetla Agrani is going to be doing something based on Kalidasa? But I really liked what Bosepukur did last year- though I am not sure if I completely understood it – did you? I do not know about the rest but I am most definitely going to go to Sreebhumi first – haven’t you heard they are doing Burj Khalifa this year?

 I have been to galleries and seen art installations and then I have attended Durga Pujo in my city. If cities could be works of art then the thousand and more pujos spread across the length and breadth of the city are the many brush strokes and colour splashes on its expanding canvas. I have seen, within two months or sometimes three, artists and workers make an entire temple structure out of steel utensils. Award winning clubs which have conjured simply out of nowhere temple structures out of – wait for it- knit grass blades. But this is not just a celebration of empty art. This art is deeply political too. Many high concept pujos find people crowding the exit area poring over long standees explaining the concept of the theme and the decoration people just saw. For there are clubs standing in solidarity with the farmer’s protest – with massive installations of feet joined together and the blisters resembling melting faces of the heroes we will never know. Some turn an entire lane into a brothel with extra figures of women waiting for customers and finally leading upto the room of the brothel madame who sits there protecting them all – envisioned in the form of the goddess. But sometimes in the hands of a different artist, she takes the shape of a migrant woman – carrying her four children sitting on the back of a truck, her third eye glaring at you in the face.

During Durga Pujo, my city is an open art gallery with its people turning from one lane to another partaking in and bringing to life the glorious art on display.

 Anwesh Banerjee
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Every year as the five days of celebration, food and pandal hopping come to an end with Sindoor Khela on Vijaya Dashami, when will it be the right time for us so to decode whether it is truly a Shubho Vijaya? 

Sindoor (vermillion) Khela or the playing with Sindoor takes place before Visarjan of the idols of Goddess Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik, and Ganesha exclusively by married women. Sindoor or vermillion is regarded as a symbol of a blessed marriage, considered patriarchal by many, Bollywood has reinforced and emphasised the sanctity of the same. From suhagan to sindoor, women have been forced to ascertain their status as a product of ownership of their husbands. A common bond of marriage is shared amongst women, only cis-women in heterosexual married relationships. Yet, each year, Bengali women drape sarees and celebrate a norm excluding a huge part of the society! 

The idol of Goddess Durga is smeared with vermillion with the significance of her marriage with Lord Shiva, however, such a ritual emphasises on the institution of marriage more than the individualism of the woman. Such a ritual celebrates her existence in association with her husband, thus, excluding unmarried, widowed, divorced, homosexual, transgenders, single mothers, separated and non-cis gendered women. It gives supreme status to her suhagaan diminishing THE Devi’s powers! The above-mentioned groups remain at the fringes of social acceptance and remain ostracised due to their relationship bereft a man. 

Barring the women who choose not to be associated with a man, an entire community is left behind- who are never invited to the sindoor khela. Heterosexual couples or lesbians, simply put, need no man. So, why is this united by gender and divided by traditions at play? Such traditions reek of indifference and sheer heteronormativity and unsympathy towards an entire living-breathing-existing community! The entire idea of unifying women under Sindoor Khela stands on the very ground of heterosexuality thus, ostracising an entire community simply for not identifying themselves with a masculine figure. 

The concept of married women only is largely a question on what defines a marriage. With changing definitions of companionship, do couples in other forms of courtship not consider their relationship as pious as of those made sacred by the holy fire? This tradition also questions the sanctity of an ideal relationship between a man and a woman only acceptable after marriage. Where do the divorcees, separated, widowed and single mothers stand? Moreover, the definition of a ‘woman’ per se, is problematic in itself. Gender is fluid. Ascertaining a set norm of cis women invalidates the experiences of non-binary and trans folks. 

In a country which labels widowhood as the end of the world and creates havoc over the release of a movie like Water by Deepa Mehta portraying the status of widowed woman in Varanasi, marriage stands as a hovering social norm of acceptance for us! From adorning white garments to living a life of isolation, the agency of women is considered diminished after her husband’s death. 

Prostitutes who fall in the conventional definition are all the more isolated in Durga Puja. The idea of sex work is still unacceptable and talked about in hushed tones. Sonagachi or Asia’s largest red-light district stands at the threshold of conventional morality. Ironically, an age-old Hindu tradition states, the making of Durga’s idol requires punya mati’ or dust from the doorsteps of the sex-workers. 

The barriers imposed on women have been continuing for centuries, without raising a single eyebrow. Times of India launched a campaign #NoConditionsApply in order to incorporate a broader audience of women and make it inclusive. The aim of breaking down the tradition of the division was solely to incorporate diversity, by making it a celebration for one and all. 

Click on the link below to witness a visual experience of the celebration:


A festival that celebrates the universality and omnipotence of women, excludes women deemed inferior by society. A festival that reminds us of the power of womanhood, excludes everyone but the privileged. A festival that worships a woman, excludes women. 

Feature Image Credits: The Indian Express

Anandi Sen

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The BJP-backed National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF) on 23rd September, 2017 filed a police complaint against Asst. Prof. Kedar Kumar Mandal for allegedly writing offensive content about the Hindu Goddess Durga.

Assistant Professor of Dyal Singh College, University of Delhi faced flak for insulting Goddess Durga  in his post on Facebook. On 22nd September, DU Professor Kedar Kumar Mandal’s post on Facebook read, “Durga is the very much sexy prostitute in Indian mythology”.  A case has been registered under Section 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at the Lodhi Colony Police Station by the BJP-affiliated teachers’ group National Democratic Teachers’ Front (NDTF) on Sunday against him.

Mandal had posted the controversial post on 22nd September at around 6.43 PM which he later deleted. His remark invited the ire of students’ organisations like Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) who have demanded the immediate dismissal of the Professor.

Source: ScoopWhoop
Source: ScoopWhoop


The ABVP asked students to boycott Mandal’s classes. “We demand suspension of this person who has no respect for religious sentiments of Hindus as well as dignity of women. Such a person, if allowed to continue as a teacher, will only spread hatred amongst students,” said Saket Bahuguna, national media convener of ABVP, in a statement to Hindustan Times.

IS Bakshi, Principal of Dyal Singh College, said he had not received any complaint. Bakshi said Mandal is an assistant professor in the Hindi department. No contact has yet been established with Prof. Mandal.

The controversial remark comes at a times when the entire Hindu community is busy celebrating  the auspicious nine sacred days of Navratri which is celebrated with fervour over India and is dedicated to the Goddess Durga and her Nine avatars.


Feature Image Credits: Deccan Chronicle

Oorja Tapan

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