Durga Puja – The biggest festival in our life – Part – III


Welcome to ‘Sarbojanin’ Durga Puja.  

In earlier days (17th or 18th Centrury), Durga Puja was celebrated only in affluent and zaminder families in West Bengal and participation of common people was not there at all.  Then ‘Barowari’ Durga Puja or ‘Sarbojanin’ Durga Puja came into existence. The word Sarbojanin comprises of two words. In Bengali, ‘Sarbo’ means ‘for all’ and ‘Jan’ means ‘people’. So the word ‘Sarbojanin’ means for all people. There is no restrictions in respect of colour, creed, caste or class and became the most popular festivals over the years.

Last minute rush

The six-day long annual festival started on October 19, with Panchami. It is a sheer joy for all of us since then. The sound of dhak fill the atmosphere, along with chants of the mantras during Pushpanjali & Sandhya Arati.  Mothers keep fast for their children on Shasthi and there is ‘Anandamela’  (food stalls) in the evening, where ladies prepare food at home and bring it to the stall.  Members or guests buy the same in the evening…these can be anything, starting from Pakora to Singara (Samosa), spring rolls to egg rolls even Biryani or sweets.

Dhaki in action

Can I try, please

It’s nice feeling once again to be at home. Last two years we couldn’t go home, however, we celebrated Durga Puja at our place in Gurgaon as a Prabasi Bengali (Bengalis who have been away from their motherland).  It’s a different experience altogether.  There are many who were dying to go home at one point of time, now became involved in Prabasi puja with the same intensity and devotion.

You have heard about NRI, but ‘Prabasi Bengali’ might be a new word for many of you…it’s a strange word & feeling to me and may be to most of us, the so called ‘Prabasi Bengali’. All of a sudden, you add ‘Prabasi’ in front of me once we stepped out for a living and then there is a feeling of isolation from your own motherland, whom you love the most even today. As new generation took control of our den which we used to think ours’ only at one point of time, we started feeling isolated at our own place.  We don’t want to be just a mere spectator only when there is no involvement and henceforth, get more involved in ‘Prabasi Pujo’. I just hope that this situation will never come to me, but I did enjoy Durga puja here as well.  

There will be drawing, recitation competition for children, cultural programme at night. Khichuri bhog served with Labra (a tasty mixed vegetables curry) for all six days who visit the pandal, irrespective of their caste or community. This brings all the people of our residential area in one spot and is a unique get together.

Drawing Competition

Nursery to Class-I section

Cultural Programme

We also visited Chattarpur Durga Temple, along with other Pujo Pandals in Delhi & NCR. There are close to 300+ Durga Pujo in Delhi & NCR and in last few years, the number has also increased in Gurgaon.

Chattarpur Durga Temple

This is the only time in the year or throughout our life, children got the absolute freedom from the elders, in its’ true sense of words. No restriction during these few days, even if you don’t touch or come close to your books during these few days it’s OK. At the same time, you can read ‘Anandamela’, ‘Kishore Bharati’ or ‘Sandesh’ or ‘Suktara’ (Pujo Magazines, especially  designed for children). Nobody will say anything if you go out with your friends and come back a little late or stay a little longer in the pujo pandal. No Puja is complete with the mandatory Adda session till late night at the Para Puja. You can have a little bit of idea about what I am mentioning here. When my son was just three years’ old (2010), we brought him back at 10 p.m. However, he didn’t want to come from the pandal…because he was playing with his friends throughout the day and wanted to continue even 10 at night…and started crying ‘amake keno niye ele, darja-ta khule dao…why did you brought me back, please open the door. Let me go’…finally we had to give in…perhaps, we also wanted the same and returned home after spending another two hours. He was too little to understand the concept of ‘Adda’, but he was definitely enjoying; that kind freedom he had never seen before.

Let me go..I don’t want to sleep at 10 pm

We are famous for our addas. So, what is ‘Adda”? Adda is nothing but a form of intellectual exchange among members or informal chats. During Puja adda (or any adda session!) the topics can be practically anything and everything. Sky is the limit. We have the license to kill our time in whatever way we wish to. Children make plans for each of the Puja days to hang out with friends and family. Some everlasting relationships grow during this time.

Maha Ashtami is a very important day during Puja. We shall never miss Ashtami Puja’s Pushpanjali. Kumari Puja is held on Ashtami, sometimes  Nabami. Sandhya Arati and Sandhi Puja are a must watch on Ashtami. Many of us keep fast and break after Sandhi Puja.

Ma Durga


We worshipped Ma Durga in various forms during her stay here. One of those forms is the “Kumari”, the Virgin form. This mould is the most powerful form of Mahashakti. Depending on the age of the girls they are worshipped in the various forms of the Goddess, symbolising the Kumari form of  Devi is worshipped in front of the idol of Goddess Durga, particularly to evolve the purity and divinity of the women of the society.

Devi Durga

Sandhi Puja is an integral and important part of Durga Puja, performed at the juncture of the 8th and 9th lunar day, which lasts from the last 24 minutes of Ashtami till the first 24 minutes of Nabami. Durga is worshipped in her Chamunda form during this period or ‘Sandhikhan’. Devi Durga killed, Chando and Mundo, the two asuras at “Sandhikhan” and thus acquired the name of “Chamunda”.

Sandhi Puja requires 108 lotus flowers, 108 earthen lamps along with other offerings like clothes, jewelry and it is a delight for everyone to see.

Sandhi Puja



So, by now, you must have already visited many pujo pandals and many more to go, so am I…meeting everyone – ‘kire kobe eli…bhalo achis to, ekhane aai’…(When did you come? Hope you are well, come here) feel so good to hear. You must also be hungry now…so it’s also time to give our tastebuds some freedom which it deserves…and I hope you won’t mind for another post of mine for this…you won’t be disappointed, a promise…see you very soon with…ok, let’s wait for that…take care of yourself


  • Vibha says:

    Lovely account Amitava. This is the first time that I attended Durga Pooja ever – Visited 4 pujo pandals on Ashtami. It was so much fun. And thanks to my Bengali friend, I was enlightened with some very interesting Info regarding the making of the idols. It seems that thousands of idols are shipped overseas every year because the idols can only be made with the soil from the Ganga Basin. Looking at the size of the idols, I find it quite intriguing how it all falls into place. Because obviously there is so much to do, so many deadlines to meet. :)

    Reading your post has brought back that happy atmosphere where everyone was having the time of their lives, doing what they want to do. I am thankful to the “Prabasi Bengalis” who have made it possible for us non-Bengalis to experience the Pooja outside Bengal.

    • Thank you Vibha.

      I am sure you have enjoyed your first and will look forward for next years like us as well. Yes, it’s fun unlimited for everyone. True, idols can be made with the soil from the Ganga basin and these deadlines are fixed for the year, unlike other deadlines. There is no escape route and everyone qualifies with A+++.

      Yeah, it is a happy atmosphere everywhere. There is so much positive energy all around that people will feel happy only once in and finally, thank you for acknowledging our efforts as ‘Prabasi Bengalis’…

      I was in double mind whether people would accept this as a travelogue or not but still decided to submit my first post, as an attempt to bring Durga Puja, as well as many other things which are an integral part of this mega festival.

      Subho Bijoya and wishing you a very happy Dussehra. Take care,

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Thank you, Amitava, for reigniting nostalgic moment of the Durga Puja festivities which are an integral part of my childhood in the early 60’s when my Dad was posted in Calcutta (as it was known then). It seems as if all Bengalis spend the entire year in preparation for celebrating the Puja in a grand manner. I remember that we used to leave home at 10 pm and go pandal hopping all over the metropolis and one could never have enough of the atmosphere, a curious mixture of fun and religion. This year, I had actually planned a trip to Kolkata with my family during the puja festivities but had to cancel it due to exigencies of work.

    Thanks for including a Sanskrit shloka written in Bengali script. It is ages since I have had the opportunity to practice my very limited Bengali reading skills; I might be mistaken but I think that the fifth word is Shanti and not Maatru.

    • Tx a lot DL…

      True, it doesn’t matter how hard you try to cover all, at the end you will always fall short.

      :) Planning for our next year Puja has already been chalked out this morning i.e. 9th – 13th of October, 2013….so we will have to take at least three days off i.e. Wednesday to Friday – made a calender entry to book ticket well in advance (in June). So you can plan your visit also in the same line…

      Fifth word written here is ‘Sakti Rupena’…

      Subho Bijoya and wishing you a very happy Dussehra. Take care,

      ps: I will surely take you ‘all’ through down the memory lane, numerous times in future and I am sure you will cherish those beautiful days/memories in your life, which you left long time back.

  • Wonderful Amitava

    For worshipping any form of God there is no caste creed color or class. That should be understood worldwide.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Dear Amitava,

    I have never attended Ma Durga Pooja functions except while I used to be posted in Jhansi between 1980-83. The intimate account of the ritual is very well supported with splendid, vibrant and colourful photographs. Your son’s insistance to let him go brought smile on my face. The decoration and Sanjhi Puja pics are simply superb. Thanks for sharing the info.

    Sushant Singhal

    • Thank you for your appreciation Sir.

      Yeah…we do enjoy all his activities and such small small incidents like every parents…it’s like “just happened few seconds ago”…now he is 5 years old, understand Puja a little bit. During this year puja, it was just a replica of this incident throughout these five days.

      Those pictures were from Y-2011 Puja. I will post some pictures of this year in my next post.

      Thank you once again.

  • mala says:

    Hi Amitava,

    Pujor Shubhecha, very nice post indeed. I know bangali der jono kolkata ekta nijer charm achhe, howsoever much we took our relatives from kolkata to Chittaranjan Park, but bengalis will always miss being in kolkata for the pujo.

    However, we being Delhi bengalis we love the celebrations here. Have never been to kolkat during the pujo which i aspire to do probably next time arouns.

    Hope you had a wonderful pujo and may Ma Durga bless you and your family.


    • Subho Bijoya Dashami and Thank you, Mala.

      True, we do miss (Okhankar) Durga Puja in Bengal & Kolkata. The reason for us to die to book for a ticket during Puja is not to celebrate Puja there alone, but to meet everyone in the family, friends, relatives or even known familiar faces/atmosphere could be the main reason behind this – which is not possible here, who has spent his/her childhood there…the same happens to you as well that’s why you loved to be here. My cousins who born & brought up in Delhi, didn’t want to go there and would like to be in “24 Palli’s Puja” in Amar Colony, Delhi. We attended “24 Palli’s Puja” once during my college and it was a very good experience for us.

      We have had the opportunity to celebrate Durga Puja in CR Park in 2003 & 2004, as we were staying in ‘C’ block, just opp. Mela Ground and enjoyed every minutes. Fortunately, passes were issued to us for Mela Ground and Kali Mandir – so we didn’t have to wait in a long queue.

      Yes, it was a great time with everyone…too short though…you must go & watch Durga Puja once in Kolkata – it will be a treat for your eyes…

      Wishing you to have a great time with everyone in the family.


  • chiranjeev says:

    Well written Amitawa,
    Finally it’s end here..Once again I attendded Durga pooja – Visited so many Puja pandals . and enjoy a lot.

  • Abhee K says:

    Hi ,

    Very well written. When I was in Delhi I used to attend this pooja at Janakpuri Bengali Association Pujo pandal . I attended it for continuosly 2-3 years. Here in Chennai no Pandal , very few that too in far off places…So Missed Kolkata and Delhi Janakpuri…Thanks to your post. With your post I had enjoyed Durga Puja…I really liked Sandhi Puja pic…

    Happy Durga Puja to you and your family…(Although belated)

    Keep writting

    • Hi Abhee…Tx a lot for your appreciation…just returned home.

      I can understand how you must have felt, since you had enjoyed the same in Kolkata, as well as in Delhi before. It’s my pleasure if this small initiative gave you pleasure of a virtual darshan of Ma Durga. I will post photos from my album (2012) in my next post…which I have started just now.

      Subho Bijoya Dashami and wishing you to have a great festival time with all your near & dear ones.

      Take care,

  • Puru says:

    Dear Amitava,

    Congrats to you for posting such a nice write up.
    Though I am not a bengali but i can relate to your story, reason being my native place is Jabalpur (MP).
    Bengalis are in abundance there….i dont think u have visited tht place. The way jabalpurian celebrate durga puja is just beyond imagination. Its a mix culture…North India + West Bengal = Total Dhamal.
    May be next time i will post some pics of Jbp durga puja.

    • Dear Puru,

      Tx a lot for your appreciation and nice to know about Jabbalpur’s Durga Puja. I met one of my bengali friend last month who was telling me the same thing, sine his dad was posted there sometime back.

      I like the equation “North India + West Bengal = Total Dhamal” – a complete out of the box thought :) very good.

      will surely look foward to know more from you,

      Subho Bijoya Dashami and wishing you to have a great festival time with all your near & dear ones.

      Take care,

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    Hello Amitava,

    Thank you very much for Excellent & Detailed Post about Durga Puja & Pandals….

    Pictures are so good….

    wish you a Happy Belated Dugra Puja….

    Keep Sharing…. Keep Posting


  • Nandan Jha says:

    After so many comments, I think I would say ‘ditto’ to Sushant’s comments. Indeed the rituals, the pics all woven in one great story. Thank you.

    I have been busy with the back end and now catching up on all the stories so sorry for such a delayed comment.

    Leaving a link of a pure ‘Prabasi Puja’ log by DC – https://www.ghumakkar.com/2011/10/18/nri-durga-puja-evoking-mixed-feelings/ for this group.

  • Thank you, Nandan…
    Story is the same with me as well…returned, busy again with routine life…many things to catch-up, running against deadline(s)…couldn’t find time to read last week’s posts except a few inbetween.

    I will surely read DC’s story (most probably, I had already read) again once at home today.

    Have a nice time.


  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Amitava,

    Bijoya greetings.

    It is a very nice and informative series on Durga Puja. Actually, the concept about about DP is that it a very religious affair (puja being the keyword). You have aptly brought out various aspects to highlight that DP is as much a celebration as it is a Puja.
    Expecting to see your next post soon,


    • Amitava Chatterjee says:

      Bijoya Greetings.

      How was the Puja for you…I am sure you have enjoyed a lot. When did you return? and hope you have picked-up ‘Sarodiya’ this time as well….busy time for your mind & soul…

      Yes, I couldn’t find time since then to finish…first, guests at home just after puja…yesterday had to visit Ghaziabad for ‘Bijoya Dhashami-r Pranam’ at my uncle’s place (so late) and returned @12:30 a.m. and today, we have a plan to leave for Bhiwari. I hope to submit the post by Wednesday for review.


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