The biggest festival of Bengal is near at hand. Shopping is on in full spree. Similar goes for the construction of pandals. A hectic pace is the order of the day. In this busy time, people have already started chalking out their plans for the Durga Puja days. Kolkata, as well as many other places in West Bengal, deck up in their best during these five days.
Touring Puja pandals in many places can be a hassle, what with the often unmanageable crowds, especially in big cities like Kolkata. To let people enjoy pandal hopping as much as possible, in spite of the crowds, West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation has organised a set of tours on the days of the Puja, both in Kolkata and to some of the more prestigious Pujas in the districts.
The packages start from Mahalaya itself. Mahalaya falls on September 23 this year. There are two types of tours available for the 23rd – by steamer along the Ganga and by AC bus. The former would start with departure from the Babughat jetty at 9 am. You would get to see the tarpan at Babughat first, before the cruise commences. This marks the end of the period of Pitripaksha. The cruise would take you past the Dakshineswar Temple to the monastery of Belur Math, where Mahalaya, and then Durga Puja, are organised with big fervor. From Belur Math, the cruise would take you back to Babughat, via Kumartuli, where you can see the making of the beautiful idols. Mahalaya is the day when, as per tradition, the eyes of goddess Durga are drawn, followed by the other parts. This is a sacred ritual and is celebrated with great fervour. You return to Babughat at 2.30 pm. In between you would be provided with packed breakfast and lunch. The full package, including the food, comes at an affordable cost of Rs 1,250 per person (including taxes).
There is an afternoon package as well. It starts at 3 pm and ends at 8.30 pm. Tourism Centre, the booking office of the Department of Tourism, government of West Bengal, is the commencing point for this tour. This tour is by air-conditioned bus. The highlights of the tour include a visit to Dakshineswar Temple near Kolkata, seeing idol-making at Kumartuli and a light-and-sound show at Malancha Tourist Lodge in Barrackpore. Dinner packets would be served at Malancha. After that, it would be back to Kolkata. The price per person is lesser for this, at Rs 1,100 per person.
Tarpan at Babughat on the day of Mahalaya
Seven days after Mahalaya comes Shasthi, the beginning of the grand festival. The pandal-hopping tours have been organised from September 30 to October 3, that is, till Navami. In Kolkata, the tours have been divided into seven packages.
Udbodhoni – I: These would take place from 10 pm of September 29 to 6 am the next day. After departing from Tourism Centre on BBD Bag, it would cover pandals in both the northern and southern parts of Kolkata. Included in the itinerary are College Square, Kashi Bose Lane, Hatibagan Sarbajanin, Baghbazar Sarbajanin, Badamtala Ashar Sangha, 66 Palli, Mudiali Club, Ekdalia Evergreen, Singhi Park and Park Circus.
Rate per person: Rs 1,300 for AC coach, Rs 900 for non-AC coach, both including packed dinner
College Square, 2013
Udbodhani – II: This package tour is also for September 29 and 30, and has the same timings. Only the pandals visited would be different. Included are Khidderpore Pally Saradia, 25 Pally, Behala Notun Dal, Barisha Club, Ajeyo Sanghati, Vivekananda Athletic Club, 41 Pally, Naktala Udayan Sangha, Pally Mangal (EEDF), Santoshpur Triangular Park, Santoshpur Lake Pally, Rasdanga Naba Uday, Bosepukur Sitala Mandir and Bosepukur Talbagan.
Rate per person: Rs 1,500 for AC coach, including packed dinner
Naktala Udayan Sangha, 2013
Sanatani - I: This is the morning tour to the traditional pujas of Kolkata. It would take place on all three days – Saptami, Ashtami and Navami, that is, October 1, 2 and 3. From Netaji Indoor Stadium, AC and non-AC coaches would take you to Ghosh Bari, Sovabazar Rajbari, Chhatubabu Latubabu Puja, Chandra Bari, Rani Rashmoni Bari and Thanthania Dutta Bari.
Rate per person: Rs 1,100 for AC, Rs 800 for non-AC, both including breakfast with cold drink and bhog (as lunch).
Sanatani - II: This is the afternoon tour to the traditional houses of Kolkata. This would also take place on all three days and also start from Netaji Indoor Stadium. The same pujas as the ones which are part of Sanatani – I tour would be covered here.
Rate per person: Rs 900 for AC, Rs 700 for non-AC, both including breakfast with cold drink and bhog (as lunch)
Thanthania Dutta Bari during Durga Puja
Uttara: This tour programme on the mornings of October 1, 2 and 3 would cover some of the important theme-based puja pandals of north Kolkata, including Md Ali Park, College Square, Bagbazar Sarbojonin, Kumartuli Park, Ahiritola, Pathuriaghata Pancher Pally, Rabindra Kanan, Kasi Bose Lane, Telengabagan, Maniktala, Chaltabagan and Rammohan Smriti Sangha.
Rate per person: Rs 1,300 for AC, Rs 900 for non-AC, both including breakfast with cold drink and lunch
Ahiritola Sarbojonin 2013
Dakshini: This is the southern counterpart of the Uttara programme, on the same three days at the same rates. The pujas covered would be Maddox Square, Adi Ballygunge Sarbojanin, Ekdalia Evergreen, Singhi Park, Hindustan Park, Deshapriya Park, Mudiali, Shib Mandir, Badamtala, Ashar Sangha, 66 Pally, Chetla Agrani Club and Suruchi Sangha.
Kolkata Durga Puja: This is a combo programme of West Bengal Tourism, a one-day-two-nights programme. This is scheduled only for October 1 and 2. On October 1, the AC coaches would depart from Udayachal Tourist Lodge in Salt Lake and reach Babughat at 4 pm. A pleasant cruise tour on the Ganga would follow, and then dinner. The guests would be returned to the guest house. The second day would cover all the puja pandals covered by the Uttara package (see above).
Rate per person: Rs 3,995 including lunch and dinner on Day 1 and breakfast and lunch on Day 2
Kumartuli Park, 2013
DURGA PUJA TOURS TO OTHER PARTS OF WEST BENGAL
There are six packages for visiting pujas outside Kolkata.
Hoogly Safar: This is a day-long tour which would take place on three days, October 1, 2 and 3. The departure point is the state government’s Tourism Centre in Sreerampore. The spots to be covered would be Sreerampur Goswami Bari, Sheoraphuli Surendra Nath Ghosh’s house, Sheoraphuli Rajbari, Hanseswari Temple and Terracotta Temple of Ananta Basudev in Hoogly-Guptipara, and some temples of Kalna in Bardhaman district.
Rate per person: Rs 3,995 including food
Rarbanger Puja – I: These are also day-long tours on October 1 and 2. Departure is from Tourism Centre, Kolkata. Pujas included in the package are Chowdhury Bari in Ahmedpur, Bhattacharya Bari in Paharhati and Dey Bari in Borsul.
Rate per person: Rs 1,600 by AC coach, including packed breakfast and lunch
Rarbanger Puja – I: These are again day-long tours on October 1 and 2, including Chongdar Bari and Majhi Bari in Gushkara, and Troilokyo Tarini Temple at Koyra Debitala.
Rate per person: Rs 1,800 by AC coach, including packed breakfast and lunch
Surul Rajbari, Birbhum: These are 7 am-to-8 pm tours on October 1 and 2. Spots to be visited are Sarkar Bari Puja in Surul and Sonajhuri Puja near Santiniketan.
Rate per person: Rs 2,000 by AC coach, including breakfast with cold drink and lunch
Durga Puja of Surul Rajbari
Kashimbazar Rajbari, Murshidabad: This is a one-night-two-day tour starting on October 1. From the state Tourism Centre in Kolkata, AC coaches would take you to Kashimbazar Rajbari in Murshidabad and for sightseeing around Murshidabad. Stay for the night has been arranged at Behrampore Tourist Lodge.
Rate per person: Rs 3,000 (including travel and AC room on twin-sharing basis.
Durga Puja of Kashimbazar Rajbari
Bijoya Package to Bishnupur: This is a two-night-three-day tour beginning on October 3. Included are Bishnupur via Jairambati-Kamarpukur and Mukutmanipur. The departure point is Tourism Centre, Kolkata and the tour would end in Kolkata. Stay for the nights have been arranged at Bishnupur Tourist Lodge.
Rate per person: Rs 3,999 (including travel and AC room on twin-sharing basis).
Terracotta temples of Bishnupur
Cruise: Ganga cruise packages with on-board cultural programmes have been arranged on all days of Durga Puja, that is, September 30, and October 1-3. On all of these days, two cruises would take place, one on the morning from 10 am to 1 pm, at Rs 1,200 per head (including lunch) and from 6 pm to 9 pm, at Rs 1,400 per head (including dinner).
Visarjan: In addition to these, there would also be immersion trips to the Ganga on Dashami, that is, October 4. The price per head is Rs 500 including snacks. There would be two trips on board buses: from 6 pm to 7.30 pm, and from 8 pm to 9.30 pm.
Sindur khela on the eve of visarjan
Address and other details of Tourism Centre (the booking and information office of West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.), which is the commencing point of many of the package tours:
3/2, B.B.D. Bag (East)
Kolkata 700 001
Phone: (033) 22436440, 22488271
Website: www.wbtdc.gov.in, www.wbtourism.gov.in
For online booking, visit this page of West Bengal Tourism: http://app.westbengaltourism.gov.in/WBTBooking/wbtdc_package.html
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv