Pandal Hopping – The newest 2-words in my limited vocabulary. It all started when we decided to be in Calcutta for this Durga Puja (i.eNavrathri). We had heard distinctly different versions of Durga Puja ( Henceforth referred to as DP) in Kolkata..From “It’s way tooo crowded ..Get Out Of The City While You Can” to “Its Mind Blowing. You Shouldn’t Miss It” . Anyhow by sheer chance we stayed put here inspite of Atul’s 1 week chutti and got the opportunity to see the whole of kolkata come alive.I was spell bound as to how a city which usually doesnt wake up till 11 am and sleeps by 11:00 pm transforms into a 24-hour live wire..It is that time of the year when the whole city becomes 1 big college campus. The crowd in the pandals in the wee hours of the night is just so surprising. Taxis are plying till 4:00 in the morning. Girls and boys are seen roaming around in groups beyond 1 in the night.The amount of effort and the amount of creativity which goes into the making of each pandal just amazed me. The beauty of it all , the lights , the decor, the ambience gripped me and made me go into this “pandal-hopping” frenzy these past 3 days. I have managed to cover some 12-13 pandals notwithstanding the crowd , the huge lines you encounter before you can enter and the distances between pandals, the jams on the roads and the pain in your legs..phew..But trust me its worth all that. Anyhow, So here’s a brief description of the pandals I visited this year…Basically, In Kolkata the “actual” Puja is from saptami till dasami (7th day till the 10th day)…and day 1 for me refers to the first day I went visiting Pandals..
Day 1 (which is actually Day 5 of the navrathri) : 12 am in the night, Atul’s friend Srirup called and asked if we wanted to go Pandal Hopping. We said “Yesss” very enthusiastically. This , after spending 2 exhausting hours in Science City. Exhausting not because we walked too much or anything, but because looking at the mindboggling crowd there tired us.Seriously, somehow the sight of all the kitch-pitch tiresss the mind and the body and we were ready to crash by 10 pm 😉 .But pandal-hopping sounded like fun and apparently this is the only day where you can see the pandals,walk around it leisurely and find parking space 🙂 since Puja will start from day 7 of the navrathri…But inspite of this, 2 days before puja “starts”, the crowd roaming around in the city was unbelievable. Our first Stop was Maddox Square , which is basically a big adda for college/school going kids..The pandal is not all that spectacular (although since that was our first Pandal, I thought it looked verry pretty) The radiance on maa Durga’s face and the other diety’s faces is amazing. Plus the speciality of the Maddox Square Pandal is that there is one piece of REAL gold jewellery on the thakur (i.e Diety in Bengali :)) .. So there’s like 24 hour police security for this Puja Pandal.
Next stop was Ballygunge Cultural and Samaj Sebi..Samaj Sebi was my first sight of a beautifully designed pandal..2 lifelike horses on a green patch of land..And the brilliant deities..Everything from the grass to the “concrete” like temple to the horses all made completely from scratch just for these 4 days of puja. Ballygunge Cultural, just a few minutes away, had these huge White pillars with painted glass in between, made of paper mesh and plastic..Again I felt the deities were incredibly beautiful..I loved the colours , the accessories, the radiating faces of the thakurs. On retrospection, these were not particularly spectacular compared to what we saw later..
Next we went to Mudiali. Oh man..What a sight..It wasn’t huge but compact and beriiiiiiiii beautiful.It was made like a temple..white in color..beautiful ( I am so running out of adjectives to describe these pandals!) with extremely life-like pigeons on top :)..Seriously those pigeons were simply extraordinary..I couldn’t stop looking at them..We could just not believe that this structure which looked like one of those everlasting solid monuments was made with
wood/cardboard!!! There was this beautiful Shiv-Parvati Carving next to the temple.All in all the structure looked like it had been standing there for eras together but one touch and I knew everything ws put up just for the Pujas.
Next up was Ekdalia Evergreen and Singhi Park..and our “awe” of the whole thing just kept increasing.Ekdalia Evergreen’s Lighting was fantastic..The colorful light boards were showing adorable animations of animals swaying and playing..all this with just a simple “on-off” mechanism..nothing fancy..but damn cute.The Pandal lookied like victoria memorial and was made almost completely with glass pieces..Sooo pretty! It was glittering like a gem under all that light. And I had no words for the beauty of the idols inside..Me and Atul decided Ekdalia will definitely win some prize.(there is a competition every year in different categories and as I came to know later, it didn’t).But it was soo beautiful..
Across the road was Singhi Park. One look at the lights outside and I thought “Las Vegas”!!! The rows of beautiful, brighttt neon lights felt like it was leading me to a casino around the corner 😉 Each of these light boards depicted a form of pollution..Water Pollution..Air Pollution..Sound Pollution etc..The pandal’s colour combination was brilliant..It was shaped like a 2-headed Peacock with the Puja place in between and you wouldn’t believe what the entire pandal’s decoration was made of..Thread reels..of different colours..the peacock feathers, the decorations on top..thread reeels..Unbelievable what people can do 🙂 .. The dieties were in this beautiful pink..the colour combination..green pandal and pink idols was just breathtaking..I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face looking at all this. All this beauty was making me very happy :)..
The stalls outside these pandals weren’t completely set up and Srirup kept saying how the atmosphere will transform to some sort of mela..with food stalls..Puchka, bhel puri pan, the balloon shooting stalls..ferris wheels and most importantly the dhaaakis (the traditional drum beaters).Although the pandals propelled my tired feet somehow through these 5 pandals, I suddenly had had enough and wanted to see my sweet little bed at home.We had walked around quite a bit since most of the roads are made one-ways and no entries so that people can walk peacefully..
At the end of my day 1, I think I have finally stumbled upon the reason why this city is so lazy..the bengalis conserve alll their energy, all their creativity, alll their activities for the Pujas, expend it alll during the pujas and then go back to conserving again ;)…Day 1 for us was actually like a preview show of all the pandals in south kolkata.We actually went back to most of them again on day 2 and day3 .
To Be Continued…whether you like it or not 😉