All year round, we eagerly wait for all the Pujas to come. Festivals like Ganesh Utsav, Navratri and Durga Puja are celebrated with great vigour and gaiety. The joy of the ebullient crowd in celebrating the rituals is evidently reflected in the electrifying atmosphere of the pandals. People who have not really experienced the euphoria of Pandal hopping might think of Pujas being boring with long chants and aartis. But, trust me it is just wonderful!
Here are the top 5 cities you can visit and get the full essence of what pujas are celebrated like in India!
Kolkata just had to come at the first position in the list, for the simple fact that Bengalis all over the country are ecstatic and preparing for Pujo, which is soon arriving. 26th September to 30th September are the days you should be in Kolkata to enjoy Durga Puja. Enjoy is an understatement considering the sheer exultance and excitement of pandal hopping.
So, when in Kolkata you must visit Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja, which has been holding Durga Puja for more than 73 years. The decoration is an intoxicating amalgamation of modern art with traditional finishing.
You must also visit the Dum Dum Park Tarun Sangha for their Durga Puja carnivals. The art installations are amazing and the Durga idol is one of its kind.
Kumartuli Park Durgotsav is another pandal you shouldn’t miss. People from all over the city rush in to witness the amazing grandeur of Durga and the rich culture it reflects.
The Dhunuchi Naach, the pumping rhythm of the Dhaka (drums) and the vibrancy of Sindoor Khela will remain etched in your heart and mind long after Maa Durga has taken her farewell.
But, that is not where it ends. Bengalis are known for their passionate love for food. Durga Puja is an indulgence for your taste buds with exotic flavours of chop ghugni, mangshor chop, egg roll, fish cutlet, mughlai paratha along with kosha mangsho and lots of roshogolla, mishti doi and rasmalai. The irresistible lure of Bengali cuisine is sure to entice the stoutest of hearts.
Navratri is a 9-day celebration, where Gujarat is decorated and beautified like a royal bride. Raas Garba and Dandiya are truly far more electrifying than any EDM night. If you want to experience the thrill of Navratri, then Ahmedabad is where you should be heading to without further ado.
During these 9 evenings, the roads are swamped with people in their colourful costumes heading towards the garba grounds. Girls are seen wearing beautiful and floral backless cholis and ghagras with elaborate mirror work. The traditional Garba songs of Gujarat are played on huge speakers and it feels like the earth itself is dancing to the tune of the music and the immaculately coordinated Garba steps. Dancing in such an exhilarating atmosphere will give you goose bumps and memories for a lifetime.
GMDC Ground is the place that you must head to if you want to enjoy Garba. The Gujarat government organizes this magnificent event. The ground is mammoth and the crowd is crazy! The environment is invigorating and you just cannot stop dancing. Even if you don’t know the Garba steps, just get into the crowd and the people will make sure that you fit in and match their steps!
Another place where you should go to, when in Ahmedabad is, Manek Chowk and watch the city come to life. The usually bustling night food market turns into a dance floor during Navratri. Dance the night away and when famished gorge on the delectable pav-bhaji and the chaats. What makes Manek Chowk more intriguing is the fact that you will not dance to the rhythm of Bollywood music instead here you can witness the traditional form of Garba that is the Sheri Garba, which just cannot be missed.
“Ganpati Bappa Morya! Mangal Murti Morya!” these chants thunder in the Mumbai air, sending down shivers of excitement through the spine. The welcoming of Lord Ganesha is done with the rhythm and taal of dhol taasha. The protector of Mumbai arrives with great pomp and resplendence. Beautiful and palatial pandals are set up in every street and every ground of Mumbai.
Lalbaugcha Raja is the most famous Ganpati of Mumbai, the King of Lalbaug literally. People don’t mind waiting in the long queues to get one glimpse of the magnificent idol standing in all its glory. It is believed by the Mumbaikars that touching the feet of Lalbaugcha Raja can destroy all your troubles and bring happiness and prosperity.
GSB seva mandal at King’s Circle is said to be the richest Pandal in Mumbai. The idol is decorated with gold and silver ornaments. The only pandal where you can witness the rituals round the clock and also the opulence of Lord Ganesha.
Chichpoklicha Raja and Khetwadicha Ganraj are some other famous Pandals you must visit. And remember to gorge on the amazing coconut filled and mawa modaks and ladoos. Puran Poli is another dish that reflects Mumbai in every bite you take!
This isn’t where Ganeshotsav ends in Mumbai. The visarjan of the idol is probably a spectacle that gives you an adrenaline rush. “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhchya varshi laukar ya” gives you a mixed feeling of sadness and thrill, which can only be experienced in person and words fail to justify the emotion.
Dussehra marks the triumph of good over evil. This festival carries great meaning and the entire country celebrates it with fervour and zeal. Huge effigies of Ravana are burned down to mark the destruction of evil. It is only in Delhi that you can experience the festival to the fullest.
Rammlila Maidan holds a large scale celebration where Ravana is burnt after a Ramlila Play which is a must watch! This is then followed by fireworks and dance.
Red Fort ground and Subhash Maidan display a similar celebration environment which is simply mesmerizing.
The entire ceremony makes you believe that good always wins and evil can never prevail.
This is a very lesser known fact that during Dussehra, Saraswathi Puja is celebrated with a lot of fanfare and devotion in our Southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The ninth day of Navratri is dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi in South India. The people perform rituals at their homes with the display of Kolu. Kolu refers to the display of miniature dolls of gods and goddesses.
Businessmen decorate their shops and offices to celebrate Ayudha Puja, which means offering prayers to the tools. Students do the same with books.
Goddess Saraswathi signifies knowledge and hence on this day people take a break from their daily routines and focus on the core elements that give knowledge like tools and books.
India is truly a land of Kaleidoscopic cultures which never fails to amaze us. Each part of India celebrates the festivals with fervour and one-of-a-kind rituals. The grandeur of the pujas is stunning and the gusto with which the masses celebrate the pujas is truly a sight to behold.