Durga Puja is a 6 day long annual Hindu festival, celebrated with pomp in the eastern region of India, primarily West Bengal, Orissa & Assam. It is the biggest festival in West Bengal and can be compared with ‘Christmas’ festivities in the West, albeit ours is 6 day long! Durga Puja is celebrated in a big way in all the cities & towns where significant population from West Bengal have relocated & resettled, Delhi being one of them. I am a Bengali (i.e. my parents are from West Bengal) by origin but Delhi is my home. I have celebrated this auspicious festival since my childhood in this city and find it one of the most culturally rich festivals which brings the community together. Sharing with you my experience of Durga Puja celebrations in Delhi.
The centre of Durga Puja festivities has to be C.R. Park, which is a resettlement colony of Bengali refugees from East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh). Popularly called ‘mini Kolkata’ , one can see the biggest Durga Protimaas (Idols), lavish Pandals (Pavilions) and most number of people. I personally avoid C.R. Park Pujas due to the crowds, but to a traveler/tourist, Durga Puja celebrations here offer the best glimpse of the festival.
During the Puja celebrations in C.R. Park, one can experience authentic food from West Bengal, buy ethnic products (sarees, handicrafts) and also watch the most frenzied Dhunichi Nrithya (Dance with Smoking Pots). Also, there are some families in C.R. Park, who organize Durga Puja at home and it is a lovely experience to be part of the homely celebrations. One year, we did get a glimpse of such a Puja and I simply loved the Durga Protima of that home (see image below).
Durga Puja is celebrated with equal fervor all over the city (wherever there is significant population of Bengalis) , most notably localities like Mayur Vihar, Dilshad Garden, Lodhi Road, Pandara Road, R.K.Puram and Dwarka. What I find most charming in the Durga Puja celebrations of such localities is the community feel. One gets to do everything together as a community. Plan the budget for the Puja, collect donations or sponsorships, organize cultural activities and sports activities. People may not meet for the whole year but Durga Puja ensures, not only we meet but also work & have fun together. Also, we wear the best clothes and jwellery at this time of the year, every new dress for every day of the Durga Puja!!
People from all age groups mingle together and there is some fun activity for everybody (like Musical Chair, Painting Competition, Singing Competition, etc) to enjoy the whole day through.
In the evening, number of cultural programs are organized, sometimes by the community itself and sometimes inviting professional artists (usually from West Bengal). Some of the best childhood memories of Durga Puja are those of me participating in staged plays and chorus songs.
The Delhi Bengali community comes together to lavishly celebrate Durga Puja together and it is also one of the biggest showcases of the achievements of this community. A lot of my acquaintances & friends (and also people in general) in West Bengal (Kolkata) think Durga Puja is ‘big’ only there. But, I feel while Durga Puja in Kolkata is all about glitz & showoff in the form of biggest & lavish pandals & Durga Protimaas; the Delhi Durga Puja has a more homely feel to it.
So, if you are in Delhi this year during Durga Puja (in the month of October), take time and indulge in some Durga Puja festivities & fun!