There is something very special about Durga Puja. Whatever happens in the world, whether devastating flood or pandemic, Durga Puja is always magical for every Bengali.
As soon as the monsoon rains start their departure and the sky becomes a mosaic of blue and white, every Bengali looks forward to the Pujas.
The timeless appeal of Mahisasurmardini in the voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra in Mahalaya morning. Those nostalgic songs played out in the microphone in every locality in Kolkata. The distant sounds of drumbeats, dhaker awaz.
The joy of buying new outfits. Catching up with old friends and relatives beyond Facebook and WhatsApp.
Anjali on Ashtami morning. Pandal hopping in the evenings.
And, of course, food. Bengalis’ never-ending relationship with great cuisine.
Is that all, or there is more to the Pujas which makes it the festival of festivals?
Something special that cannot be captured in words. Something that every Bengali feels and understands?
What is the secret that overwhelms every Bengali with a plethora of emotions?
The Homecoming of the Goddess, and Wandering Souls
Goddess Durga supposedly returns her parents’ home along with her children and stays these 4 days. This is a unique idea that created inseparable bonding between the Goddess and Bengalis. Bengalis consider their homes as the parental homes of Maa Durga. They feel as if the married daughter is coming to stay with them for 4 days. The Goddess becomes the daughter of the house.
Such a sentiment is rare in other parts of the country and this makes the Puja so unique in Bengal.
This is the time for all Bengalis who are staying abroad to return home and spend the Pujas.
Residential complexes are the anchored ships for the wandering souls who used to stay on rent and changed houses almost every year. Now that they have truly settled down, the entire complex becomes their family in every way.
Everyone in a residential complex feels this way. A residential complex in Kolkata evolves into an extended family.
And therefore, shouldn’t a family celebrate the Pujas together?
Months of Preparation before the Pujas
There is a saying that Bengalis start thinking about the next year’s Durga Puja as soon as this year’s Puja is over. In reality, organising Durga Puja needs long preparation as it is much more than worshipping the Goddess.
It is an event of many dimensions. In a residential complex, it is a social event with community lunch, long adda sessions, anjali together, and cultural programmes. As you know, Bengalis take their culture very seriously.
So, do not get surprised if you hear the renderings of Tagore songs and the sounds of ghungrus while visiting a residential complex a few days before the Pujas. You may also come across frantic, wistful children after a laborious practice session.
Every aspect of the event must be carefully planned. The must not be any scope of an embarrassing slip-up.
Durga Puja is More Social than Facebook
Durga Puja is no longer a religious festival alone; it is a huge social extravaganza. It draws every one of different religions, races, and castes in its web. Nowhere it’s more visible, more pronounced than in a residential community.
It starts from the planning stage. Meetings and meetings take place and responsibilities are delegated with a supervisory structure in place. From deciding on the idol, the concept of the décor, lights, and safety are all taken care of. These days, subscription funding is hardly for organizing a Puja, so the footprints for corporate sponsorship have entered the premises of residential complexes too.
The most important mode of social interaction in a community puja is the common kitchen and bhog. In almost all communities, at least one meal a day during the Puja is taken together, and everyone in the community gladly participates.
After all, the opportunity to meet everyone else and indulge in some gossip and chit-chat is too appealing to be missed.
Durga Puja is also an opportunity to brush up on the cultural talent of most Bengalis and residential complexes generally arrange a post puja Bijoya Sammilani which extends the social interaction further on.
Home is at the Centre of it All
Home is at the centre of it all as everyone goes on to refurbish their homes with a new coat of paints, new upholstery, new décor. This offers rejuvenation of the Bengali soul.
Besides, Pujas are the times to experiment with new cuisine, new spin to the typical Bengali menu, and be bold enough to do some culinary experiments.
Buying a new home or grihaprabesh to an already purchased one is considered auspicious.
Durga Puja was once the prerogative of the rich households in Bengal. Later, baroary pujas made the festival more participative involving commoners. Durga Pujas in residential complexes make it like a family affair, a large family affair.