I was planning the last leg of my North East trip. I saw that Durga Puja in Calcutta was around the corner.I did not have the luxury to witness the whole celebration in all its grandiosity, but I did squeeze in a couple of days till the first day of Puja, the Mahalaya. After a generous dose of mountains and music at Ziro, the chaos of a city gearing up for celebration sounded sweet deal before heading home.
Kolkata as a city is like time machine. It has seen a long history and has carried souvenir from each era till date for travelers like me to indulge in. Hand pulled rickshaws to metro rail. Trams to traffic jams. Park street to China town. Peter Cat to Irish House. You name of an era and Kolkata will take you there within a few turns and stops.
I love places that have many aspects to explore. Food, history, culture, scenery and more. Kolkata did not disappoint me on any front. The only thing bad was the weather. Humid, hot and chaotic.
For many reasons Kolkata can keep a travel photographer on its toes, especially around festival season. The best part to stay is in north Calcutta near Shyam Bazaar so that all the heritage areas are within reasonable traveling distance.
The life spooked into street pictures is directly proportional to the time spent walking and wandering around any city. So, while in Calcutta pack yourself with sumptuous breakfast and head out to see city. Hop into a tram. Take a ferry ride. See the sun set at Princep ghat. stroll around the festival markets and talk to people. Bengalis love to show their culture and locality.
Evenings are reserved for enticing the taste buds in the various markets and restaurants all over the city. Enjoy the street food at Princep ghat or Park street. Visit Oly pub and Peter Cat. These two places are symbolic with times and life of Calcutta. Park street has lots of eateries to choose from.
Mahalaya marks the beginning of the most auspicious festival for a Benagali. It is the first day of Durga Puja celebration which will go on for the next ten days. It marks the end of the mourning period and beginning of Devi worship. It is the day of invoking Durga to kill Mahishsura and symbolize victory of good over evil.
Mahalaya day begins in the wee hours before sunrise. It starts with chanting to invite Devi to descend towards earth and bless mortal beings. With technology these chanting strted to be played on radio and many households till date have a radio at home to listen to the chanting in old school fashion. Perhaps its the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra has kept the tradition intact till date. These days, twitter and youtube are sharing erqual space with the radio in spreading Durga puja happiness.!
It is also the day on which the eyes of the durga idols are painted, symbolizing coming of life in those idols on that day.
As the day progresses, hundreds and thousands of people come to the banks of Gaga river for pooja and a holy dip in the water. Mahalaya is also an important day of Hindu folks. They are supposed to feed young girls as an offering to Durga goddess.
For me Mahalya also marked the last day of my stay in Kolkata. I religiously woke up early in the morning and had a gala time clicking pictures and mingling with the crowd. It was time to say my prayers and rush to the airport.
Tram ride..! done . sorted.