Durga Puja is finally here and is often referred to as the festival of festivals as it is celebrated with much grandeur and everyone is welcome irrespective of their faith.
With crowds thronging puja pandals across Guwahati, it becomes a little bit difficult for first-time festival revellers to catch up with the spirit of puja. Don’t worry as we have got you all covered as there is a list of things that you can put on your agenda in the four-days of the festival.
Pandal hopping is something that goes synonymous with Durga Puja but making your way in the crowd to seek Goddess Durga’s blessings is a herculean task. But what joy is there if you don’t shove your way through the crowd to catch a glimpse of the Goddess.
Also, since the last few years, pandals are being erected keeping in mind a theme and it has grown into a tradition now. This year, the most sought after pandal will be the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) themed puja pandal at Chatribari Sarbajanin Debo Pujasthan Samity.
It is a befitting tribute to Vikram Sarabhai on his 100th birth anniversary and to celebrate the 50 glorious years of ISRO. Photographs of scientists have been displayed inside the pandal. Also, you can check out the Bishnupur Bimala Nagar Sarbajanin Durga Puja where they have come up with the theme of the world of Pandora in the movie Avatar with floating hills. Characters of the film Jake Sully and Neytiri will welcome you to the pandal.
Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir has found its place in the Bishnupur Sarvojanik Puja Committee’s puja which is celebrating its 69th year.
So, to treat your eyes you can visit the above-mentioned pandals and many more in the city and also to avoid traffic congestion, avoid moving out in the peak traffic hours which is during between late evening hours and early dawn hours. Car parking is not easy during this festival so it’s best to enjoy puja on foot.
Durga puja and eating out in food stalls and restaurants is a must, said Rashmi, a resident of Ganeshguri. “We wait for Durga puja as it is the best time to eat out as food stalls come up in every street and relishing hot jalebis which melt in the mouth are a must-have during this occasion,” added Rashmi.
Indeed it is true that Durga Puja means feasting on jalebis, bhog, delicious street food, Kolkata Dum Biryani and much more. Many community puja pandals offer an elaborate bhog that is offered to the Goddess first and then distributed among people is a must-have if you visit a pandal. Everyone is welcome to enjoy a platter of bhog which consists of hot khichdi, labra and papad.
Restaurants also remain packed and you hardly get any seats. If you get one you are indeed a lucky person. Also, there are long queues in the restaurants during these four days and if you want a place fixed for you need to very early. You can go for reservations as well, but not all of them accept reservations. Only a few food outlets like, Barbeque Nation, Absolute Barbeque and restaurants attached with hotels accept reservations.
The last day of this grand festival is called Dashami where the deities are smeared with vermillion (sindoor) known as Sindoor Khela which is played in Bengali households. All the married women get together and smear vermillion into each others’ face and forehead and one should witness this once in your lifetime.
“I always wait for Sindoor Khela as it is great fun to meet all the women of the locality and smear each other’s face with vermillion. It is a rich tradition in our Bengali community and it symbolizes the power of womanhood against evil,” said Nirala Bose, a resident of Lal Ganesh.
After Sindoor Khela, all the idols are taken to the river Brahmaputra for immersion or bisorjon which marks the symbolic return of the Goddess to her husband’s home in the Himalayas. The colourful processions which are taken out to the immersion ghats is a sight to behold. The best way to watch bisorjon proceedings is by standing along the streets of Fancy Bazar area or in the Kachari ghat where most of the idols are brought for immersion.
Every year, elaborate traffic plans are being made by the Guwahati traffic police and disaster management authority so that people can watch the proceedings from a safe distance.
Lastly, follow this guide to have a splendid Durga Puja and also wear light cotton garments as it might get humid, wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget to carry drinking water. Further, don’t litter the streets and always throw garbage in allotted dustbins.
If you get lost in the crowd or you have to deal with any kind of emergency, visit the nearest police station or dial 100. Don’t panic as there is help just one phone call away.
Photo credit: bishnupurbimalanagardurgapuja