It is this time of the year that I feel a bundle of emotions on mammoth scale, all together. I am sure all Bengalis do. We Bengalis can’t keep calm before and during the Durga Pujas. Autumn/ Sharat (শরৎকাল) is a short lived magic here in Bengal with festivities galore. Durga Puja is a festival for which we Bengalis wait throughout the year. Mahalaya, marking the beginning of Devi Paksh, has just passed and we have only 4 more days to go for Durga Pujo to begin. Every year our pre-puja plans, excitement and activities are limitless and multidimensional. Here’s how we do it.
Wholesome Planning for Durga Pujo:
Durga Pujo comprises of only 5 days and we have endless plans for the festival. Pre-puja plans, excitement and activities must be wholesome. Besides worshipping the mother goddess, Durga Pujo means visiting the numerous Pujo pandals in new clothes and accessories and meeting friends and family. Of course, eating special dishes, be it at home or outside, is an integral part of Bengali festivals. We ensure that we as well as our homes sparkle with festive vibes. Durga Pujo and Pujo-barshiki (Durga Puja Special Annual Magazines/ books) are inseparable for book lovers. Reading books is a part of this Pujo break. Cultural programmes and Pujo are entwined where whether you perform or you are a cheerful audience, you have to plan or rehearse well in advance for the function. Then there are Bengalis who love to travel during this short vacation. Well, I am someone who does a bit of everything I have mentioned above and hence my excitement knows no bound. I keep planning meticulously yet arrive at the fact that I have lesser time and more activities planned out for Durga Pujo.
Last Moment Shopping:
“This clutch doesn’t match this dress and this dress is an absolute disaster for dinner. It is Pujo time, a saree is a must. Let’s not be too jazzy and silky and keep it subtle with a khadi…” These are ideas of concern even if you are not a fashionista throughout the year. This season, demands and deserves a change. So, a lazy shopper likes me rushes and a person on the shopping spree also rush for the last moment shopping. The one perfect piece seems to be always missing before the Durga Pujo. Pre-puja plans, excitement and activities related to dressing up just never ends. What to wear on Sasthi evening’s cultural opening of the Pujo, Saptami’s morning Anjali, Astami’s bhog distribution, Nabami’s DJ party and Dashami’s special lunch and then ‘Sindoor khela’? And it is not only about our own shopping. We have the custom of gifting our loved ones during Durga Pujo.
Eating Out and Planning Pujo Meals:
Bong bellies love varieties and so we start making a list of when to eat what during the Durga Pujo. Special fish dish and/or mutton, Kolkata kati roll, street food, lunch or dinner at star restaurants, bhog (Prasad) at the community/ para Pujo and good food at home. Plans of ‘pet-pujo’ which means satisfying our foodgasm is pivotal to our pre-puja plans, excitement and activities. In fact, the pre-pujo planning sessions with friends and a tired day ends after massive shopping finally lead us to good food at a cafeteria or restaurant. Planning the pandal hopping route with a Pujo Guide (a map of Kolkata with pandal locators) in hand is incomplete without munching titbits and sipping steaming hot tea.
Cleaning and Beautifying Homes:
It is a ritual to clean our houses and decorate them with festive vibes. Change of curtains and bed sheets, adding real flowers to the vase that is lying at the corner since quite long now and good fragrance in the house are somethings which are compulsory. I am excited about suitable home décor and I start planning in my head much before the Pujo. Pre-puja plans, excitement and activities regarding the home front is of utmost importance to me. Mahalaya, marks the change and with it I make the changes I want at home.
Durga Pujo is all about the love, light, joy, celebrations and spirituality. Self-love and self-care is essential to be happy and to care for others. Looking good makes one feel good and feeling good is related to spirituality. Ma Durga is gorgeous and so are we. It looks awesome when ordinary people walk around confidently, looking extra ordinarily beautiful and happy. Hence, prioritizing salon appointments is essential as there is huge rush.
Rehearsal for Cultural Function:
I have been participating in cultural functions during Durga Pujo since time immemorial now. Pre-puja plans, excitement and activities are at its peak when it comes to deciding the programmes, gathering participants, making scripts, designing the stage, deciding about lights and music and rehearsing. ‘The more the merrier’ and ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ go hand in hand. However, it is fun to have that brain storming, sweet fighting and that bonding deeply every year. My observation is that the final show is great but we don’t feel fully ready and keep having butterflies in the stomach. But hear me out, that’s the fun.
Pujobarshiki and Relaxed at-home Pujo Vacation:
Pujo vacation for a lot of people may be few days of nostalgia, going back to their childhood when holidays used to be a little longer. They sit with the Pujo special book editions for hours enjoying new stories. Friends and relatives often gather and spend time together. These ‘addas’ at home are bonds revamped and memories of love, laughter and togetherness are made. Pre-puja plans, excitement and activities about hosting these get-togethers is euphoric.
Planning & Packing for Durga Pujo Holiday Trip:
Many a times I have travelled out of Kolkata during Pujo holidays. Most of the time I prefer staying during the first two or the last two days of the Pujo. Autumn or fall is a beautiful season for a leisure travel. Pre-puja plans, excitement and activities regarding Pujo holiday travel is a different league all together. Planning, deciding and finally booking happens months before the Pujo even if it is a short local trip or a far off long one. This is a travel season. So I pre-plan what to pack and why so that it is easy for me to pack during the Puja frenzy.
Planning the Budget:
Everything about Durga Puja is hyperbolic, hence budgeting is essential. With our never ending pre-puja plans, excitement and activities we obviously end up spending more than expected. Hence it is important that we seriously plan our funds few months ago segment wise. We should have a budget for gifting, a budget for food, a budget for entertainment, a budget for self-care and so on.
Durga Pujo is All about Caring and Sharing:
Durga Pujo is a lot about giving and sharing. Pre-puja plans, excitement and activities are mostly for ourselves and our loved ones. Let’s consider those who are not as fortunate as we are and share a bit of our abundance with them. I keep this in mind and every year frame a plan to get involved in some sort of social work. Ma Durga is also called Ma Annapurna, the giver of rice or food. So to celebrate her, we must look beyond and share or donate whatever little we can.