-Sandipan Karmakar

Who doesn’t love autumn? Autumn’s arrival is heralded with festivals in the Month of October in West Bengal. As India can be named a land of festivals because of its unique cultural diversity, this is the peak season of Festivals in West Bengal. So, if you’re travelling in October in West Bengal, you will see the extent of its beauty that you can never see in any other months of the year. You must have heard a lot about Durga Puja, and for the travelers of Kolkata, it is worthless to explain. So, the reasons to visit North Bengal rural destinations can be many, but if you are travelling in October, there are few inevitable experiences that the travelers should never escape while their visit to North Bengal in this time of the year.

West Bengal is a land of festivals. There is a popular saying in Bengali ‘‘Baro Mase Tero Parban’: it literally means thirteen festivals in twelve months. Almost all festivals of all religions are celebrated here with equal religious sentiment and fervour. The people of West Bengal strive hard to maintain the tradition and culture of its land in the festivals they celebrate. A great number of fairs are also organized. The most popular festival celebrated in West Bengal is Durga Puja where all the people come out in the streets and celebrate this four day festival. Other festivals celebrated in West Bengal are Kaali Puja, Basant Panchami, Dushera, Bhai Dooj, Holi, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Jayanti, Rathyatra and Christmas.

Kolkata (or our old Calcutta) holds many festivals throughout the year. Durga Puja and Kali Puja, which are the two largest festivals of West Bengal, features colourful pandals, decorative statues of Hindu goddess Durga and Kali, lighting decorations and fireworks. It is the biggest cultural festival of the city. As one of the largest cities of India and its Cultural Capital, Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanti are widely observed national holidays in Kolkata. Today, the festivals of Kolkata broadly reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of India as well as of Bengal.

Here I’m going to describe the big festivals of Bengal. In Hinduism, Mother Durga represents the embodiment of Shakti, the divine feminine force that governs all cosmic creation, existence and change. It is held that Durga emerged from the collective energies of all of the gods, including Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, to vanquish the demon Mahishasura who could not be defeated by any God or man. She is thus the compassionate saviour of all of the gods and the universe. Durga exists in a complete state of self-sufficiency and independence from the universe and everyone and everything in it (in Sanskrit, Durga means “The impenetrable” or “the inaccessible”). At the same time, she is also regarded as the mother of Ganesha and Kartikeya, and is thus seen as the demon-fighting form of Shiva’s wife, Parvati.

In honour of warrior Goddess Durga, beautifully hand crafted statues of Durga are installed in podiums in almost every lane of the city during this festival. People flock to the streets to view the goddess statues amid mesmerizing light shows, drumming, and aromatic food stalls. On the last day of the festival, the statues are paraded around the city before being submerged in the river.

Durga is honoured with extreme fervour during the annual Navratri festival, which marks the beginning of autumn and occurs typically in September or October. Navratri means “Nine Nights” in Sanskrit, and on each day of the festival, nine different forms of Shakti or Mother Durga are worshipped. In West Bengal, this festival occurs primarily on days six through ten of Navratri. On the tenth day, Durga’s victory over evil is celebrated as Vijayadashami in Bengal and Dussehra in Hindi (in North India, Dussehra also commemorates Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana as described in the Ramayana). Durga Puja also celebrates the annual visit of Durga and her children to her ancestral home, and her reunion with Shiva on Vijayadashami.

This festivals is often related to the victory of Truth over evil. This festival is also called Dusshera in other parts of India. It is often celebrated by burning the statue of Ravana (The demon king of the famous Epic – Ramayana). However in the hills of North Bengal it is celebrated in a different way. The Younger relatives respectfully visit their elders and accept their blessings. This is the time when even the broken relationships in the family are reunited. The elders give their blessings in the form of “Tika” made of rice, curd and red colour. The young relatives also offer respect by giving gifts to their elders that is called “Sisaar”. The feast is prepared in every house combining the cultural dishes, meat and local drinks. Almost all the people in the villages will be found celebrating in their fullest mood.

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