What you see below is a Rangoli (‘Alpona’ in Bengal) which donned the streets of a famous locality in Kolkata!
When I showed this to my children on my phone, "Wow, so pretty" my daughter exclaimed.
''Today is Mahalaya. So this 'design' is to brace the occasion of 'Ma Ashchen'. Within a week, the City of Joy will be in its truest festive spirit."
As the children were getting ready for school, I filled them in with the story of Maa Durga coming down to Earth with her four children....and during these days, the Bengalis go all out to celebrate the occasion with their full might.
The story indeed amused the kids and they urged to know more.
What caught their interest the most was the fact that during the Durga puja festival, I used to get a month long break from school. That's completely new for them as they are only aware of long summer holidays.
Both my kids listened to my narration of those 5 days when my days were filled with 'round the clock' fun, I would wear new clothes every morning and evening, go to the pandals, eat savories and sip on to the colas, like there's no tomorrow.
"What's a pandal, Mamma?”, My little one was curious.
I showed them some pictures and couldn't help being amused noticing their jaw dropped reaction.
Every nook and corner of Kolkata has a Pandal and each locality strives to make the best pandal ever. No picture or word can explain the grandeur behind these pandals. It's an experience of a lifetime! I also told them how every year the pandals are made of different materials and follow a theme or try to convey a message, or are based on any 'highlight' of the year.
"So, did you go out every day during Durga Puja?"
I let out a laugh and told my son that not just during the days, but several times I have gone Pandal hopping, the whole night.
"What happens to these Pandals after the 5 days?" came in the next question, quickly.
"They are taken down. Next year, again new pandals are made following a different theme and decor. "
Over this discussion about Durga Puja with my children, I couldn't help reminisce those bygone days when I would be in charge of drawing the alpona in the society pujo or watch the 'Dhunuchi Dance' in awe.
One of my personal favorites is of course the 'Sindoor kehla' when the women play 'holi' with sindoor, after bidding adieu to Maa Durga. I remember lurking around, with my friends near our moms just to get a touch of Sindoor (vermillion) on our cheeks!
Now I celebrate the festival over social media and take the kids to the local pandals here in Ahmedabad (Yes there’s hardly any city in India where Durga Puja Pandals are not set up). The continuous updates from Kolkata during this time definitely makes a now-Probashi Bengali (Non-resident Bengali) more homesick than ever.
Observing my expression and the change in my tone while talking, my almost 7 year old son, announced, " Next year, we are going to Kolkata to celebrate Durga Puja". Thus, the plan is made.
Source of banner image: Tridhara Sammelani, Kolkata, Durga Puja 2017
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