With the sound of the dhak and even the darkest alleys lit, you know Maa Durga has arrived in the City of Joy. It’s that time of the year again when friends and family, no matter in which corner of the world they are residing in, are pulled to their hometown where Durga Puja is a grand affair.
Here’s an extensive list of must-visit pandals during the five days of the festival
Held in north Kolkata, close to Sovabazar ferry ghat, the Kumartuli Park Durgotsav displays a blend of old-fashioned grandeur and art. Kumartuli is one of the oldest localities of Kolkata, which has managed to fruitfully preserve its social and cultural environment. Its narrow maze of lanes and alleyways is home to hundreds of potters who earn their livelihood by sculpting idols for various festivals.
Ahritola Sarbojanin Durgotsav
Celebrating its 75th year in 2014, the puja here is of the baroari type. Ahiritola Sarbojanin is a pioneer in the field of organising Durga Pujas which combine the traditions as well as musical and dance extravaganzas. In fact, not just revelry, but the Puja here indulges in social activities as well, like organising blood donation camps, health camps, eye-care camps, free distribution of medicines and free distribution of books. Over the years, the Ahiritola Sarbojanin pandals have won several awards in the category of best dhaki, as well as in other categories, given by top prize-givers like Asian Paints Sharad Shamman, Zee Bangla, Karukrit, Anandabazar and Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
Telengabagan Sarbojanin Durgotsav
Telengabagan Sarbojanin Durgotsav, which is going to celebrate its 49th year in 2014, has brought incisive chapters of Indian history and culture to life through its intrinsically designed pandals, interiors and the distinctly sculpted forms of Durga and other deities. Bagging several awards, the pandals by this committee have emerged as one of the crowd-pullers of Kolkata.
Dum Dum Park, Tarun Sangha
A definite treat to the eyes, this pandal has never failed to inspire awe among pandal-hoppers with its creativity and art flares. Its vibrant colours enhance the festive mood and hence their most important ornament for Puja Pandal is the display of brilliant colours. The Dum Dum Park Tarun Sangha Durga Puja Samity is going to celebrate its 29th year in 2014 and obviously, like every year this year too it promises to spellbind the increasing number of crowds.
Lake Town Adhibasi Brinda
Bringing up a homely environment through an illustrious subject, the Lake Town Adhibasi Brinda Durgotsav is all geared up to celebrate its 52ndyear 2014. Unlike other pandals in Kolkata, this Durgotsav does not go for huge artificial structures. Still the architectural work maintains themes like social awareness, pilgrimage, rural and current events along with a distinct and traditional form of the idol of Goddess Durga. They believe in engaging in social causes for the Pujas.
Sikdar Bagan Sadharan Durga Puja
Started in 1913, this is one of the oldest Durga Pujas in Kolkata. The major attraction of Sikdar Bagan Sadharan Durga Puja remains the pratima herself (idol of the goddess Durga) as the samity invests in skilful artisans for the task. Due to a shortage of space, the committee tries to keep the pandal structure simple yet vibrant.
Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojanin Durgotsab
Stepping into the 82nd year, this Puja is going strong in the face of competition for years. Their theme usually correlates between nature and heritage and their entire pandal and the idols are made up of assorted pottery work. The samity, even though lacking in space, walked away with several awards including the Best Artisan Award by Asian Paints Sharad Shamman in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja
One of the popular Durga Pujas of north Kolkata, this committee has set a benchmark for other pandals in making replicas of monuments – explored and unexplored – from all over the world. The samity, even though it follows the changing trend of architecture and style, has preserved its age-old culture and tradition, which is reflected in the artistic work, and has bagged several awards for the same reasons.
Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja
Counting 72 years, the Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja has bagged myriad honours and awards in various categories like Best Puja in 1997 and Best Artisan in 2002 by Asian Paints Sharad Shamman. The pandal witnessed a huge gathering on its golden jubilee year in 1992, and has had a crazy following since 2006. The festive mood is set with dhak competition, dhunuchi dance and sindoor khela.
Ekdalia Evergreen Club
Simple yet definitely on the must-visit list, the interior and exterior work of the pandal brings up ancient forms of art and replicas of heritage sites from around the world. A German village, the Golden Temple and other traditional Indian temples are often the spotted as the theme for this samity. But the most interesting aspect of Ekdalia Evergreen Club Durgotsav is that it preserves the age-old form of Durga pratima which makes for a distinct feature among other noted Durga Pujas in Kolkata.
Singhi Park Sarbojanin Durgotsav
A believer in traditional methods of worship, Singhi Park Durga Puja dates back to 1941 and it will be a proud occasion when it cuts the ribbon to mark the 73rd year of its Durga Puja celebration in 2014. The Singhi Park Sarbojanin Durgotsav has so far bagged several awards in different categories and thus it is one of the most-visited pandals during Durga Puja in Kolkata.
Stepping into its 80th year in 2014, the Mudiali Club Durgotsav is yet another popular baroari Durga Puja in south Kolkata. Winners of the Asian Paints Sharad Shamman Best Puja awards in 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1994, the committee ensures that the glamour of the Puja remains undiminished. The decor of its pandals is often inspired by rural India.
At the meeting point of the three roads, Rashbehari Avenue, Monoharpukur Road and Mahanirban Road, stands another popular Durgotsav in south Kolkata. As far as the inner meaning goes, it represents a unique merging of the thoughts of the three generations – the seniors, the present and the future (represented by the youth). Every year the committee focuses on creative and innovative pandals, making a replica of the terracota temples of Bishnupur in 2007.
Shib Mandir Sarbajanin Durgotsav
Initiated in the year 1936, during its long march towards 2014, it has bagged numerous awards in different categories including the Asian Paints Sharad Shanman. Since 1999 the Shib Mandir Sarbojanin Durgotsav has emerged with several concepts. Maluti gram in 2000, Lord Buddha in 2001, 64-Jogini temple of Hirapur in 2002, the hills of West Bengal in 2003, ’Bankim Bhabnay Sakti Puja‘ in 2004, ’Jogsadhanar Parnakutir’ in 2005, ‘Durga Puja – Sekaal Theke Ekaal’ in 2006 and ’Kalchakra-atiter remake’ in 2007 have been some of its famous themes in the past. In 2010 their theme was based on the slogan ’Save Trees, Save Environment.’
Bosepukur Sitala Mandir
Bosepukur Sitala Mandir Durgotsav Committee is one of the flag-bearers in innovative themes in Kolkata. Established in 1950, it is yet another multi-award winning Durgotsav in Kolkata that often depicts the rural picture of West Bengal in its thematic structure. It is one of the must-visit Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata, one that is going to celebrate its 65th year in 2014.
Naktala Udayan Sangha
Original, creative and dramatic are elements that make Naktala Udayan Sangha one of the best Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata. Inaugurated in 1950, Naktala Udayan Sangha slowly emerged as a baroari Durga Puja in south Kolkata and it came in the media highlights in 2003 when it transformed from a homely ambience to a thematic one, one which it has been following ever since with stupendous success. The ‘Projapati ai rong mele pakhna: Butterfly – Colour of Life’ theme in 2012 set a new dimension for pandals in the City of Joy.
Babu Bagan Club Sarbojanin Durga Puja
Creating majestic replicas of heritage sites, ancient temples, buildings and villages, Babu Bagan Club Sarbojanin Durga Puja is one of the popular pujas in south Kolkata. It pulls in huge crowds every year with its stunning interiors and thematic representations of rural India.
Badamtala Ashar Sangha
Standing strong over 75 years, Badamtala Ashar Sangha has a special place in people’s hearts. From a simple beginning, its journey has seen the puja samity win several awards, with the Creative Excellence Award by Asian Paints in 2010 being a remarkable break. Badamtala Ashar Sangha is now one of the Durga Pujas of Kolkata which has slowly but steadily made a permanent place for itself in the hearts of millions with its sincerity and determination.
Those looking for cultural extravaganza and grand outdoor display make Suruchi Sangha on their must-visit list. The pandals are themed on a different state of India each year. The look of the Durga idols are modelled on the particular aspects of that state. Although more than 50 years old, it first found fame in 2003 when it won an award for the best decorated pandal. It won the award again in 2009. The artwork is usually dainty and quaint.
Jodhpur Park Durga Puja, famous for attracting the young crowd not only from south Kolkata but from all over the city, has gained popularity swiftly. Its themes have been vast and varied, being more traditional in some years than others. This year too, the samity plans to take pujas pandals to the next level with a 3D theme to the interiors.