It's the kind of irreverence that, paradoxical as it seems, is the hallmark of the Durga Puja in Kolkata. The most agnostic of people can be moved by the climatic Sandhi Puja, when the Goddess slays the demon according to legend, but, for the most part, puja - so universal is its resonance that the mention of the deity is optional. It's a feeling, altogether different.
I attended Durga Puja this year after a gap of 6 years. Little did I know that nowadays people start hopping the pandals across the city from Mahalaya itself! I decided to return from the streets of Gariahat, South Kolkata to my home midway, as I was in my boxers! That was overwhelming and I was enraptured by the grandeur of the city during this time, once again.
Usually people start flooding the streets from Maha Shasthi. The sixth day of Navaratri. Pandal hopping is at the core of Durga Puja. Puja pandals are the nerve centers of the festival. It is here that humanity converges, 24 x 7, in their new puja apparels to seek the blessings of Goddess Durga. Every year thousands of artisans and craftsmen work round the clock to put together around 2,000 big and small pandals in the city, making it the greatest street-art festival on this planet Earth.
This year I attended few pandals on the eve of Maha Shasthi with my parents and covered the North Kolkata ones, in the evening.