A dollop of Bengal – Darjeeling & Durga Puja

Quite a few friends of mine were confident about D for Dacres Lane – another old world food paradise housing Chittoda’s famous Mutton Stew to be the featured header today. Few other options that came up were Dalhousie – the office para in Kolkata, the historic Dakshineswar Ma Kali Temple, Bengalis favorite beach honeymoon destination Digha and wildlife rich tropical forest covered hills Dooars/Duars  in North Bengal. But the two subjects that make it to my coveted list  today are topics extremely close to my heart – Darjeeling and Durga Puja.

Darjeeling –

The queen of Hills has an appeal unmatched to any other hill station. Home to the third largest mountain Kanchenjunga, the city can reached from New Jalpaiguri station/ Siliguri by rented car or the Himalayan range Toy train.While the view of sunrise at Tiger Hills is something beyond the world, the city also has the famous LLyod’s Botanical Garden and Zoo that is home to quite a few endangered species like the Red Panda. The mix of people from Bengali, Chinese, Anglo-Indians, Nepali to Tibetan brings about a unique mix in the cuisine. Noodles, Momos, Thupkas and butter tea are few of the famous dishes here. A speciality of this is place is Alu mimi which is basically Wai wai sprinkled over dum aloo. Darjeeling tea is famous all over the world. The open area mall has a number of shops delighting the tourists. The local market has an amazing collection of woolen clothes which are of great quality yet affordable. The place has the Government tourist lodge along with budget to luxury resorts as stay options. An ideal day at Darjeeling should begin with breakfast at Keventers, lunch at Kunga and dinner at Glenary’s.

Darjeeling city
Darjeeling in the ’90s – from my old album

Durga Puja –

Bengal can easily be equated with Durga Puja. There is nothing else that defines the essence and spirit of Bengal than this festival. Celebrated all over Bengal (infact all the over world by the non-resident Bengali population now), Mahalaya  marks the beginning of Devi pokkho. For any bengali, it means waking up to Mahishashura Mardini by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. Devi bodhon or welcoming the goddess happens on the sixth day (sasthi).

Durga Puja
An idol of Durga without the usual pandal – Berhampore Oct’17

The seventh day or saptami is when the celebrations take on full swing though the pandals seem to be drawing  a lot of crowd as early as the third day. Ma Durga along with her children Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik visit earth after killing the demon Mahisasura. The eighth day (ashtami) is synonymous with pushpanjali and eating delicious bhog (that khichudi ghyat combination can make anyone go weak in the knees) . The last day Vijaya Dasami is when Devi leaves for her heavenly abode and the wait for next year’s puja begins. The festival is concluded by sindoor khela (playing with sindoor). Durga Puja is not just about pandal hopping or gorging on delectable food items, it is also about Anandamela pujabarshiki (annual magazine digest published before puja)family reunions, get together of friends and nostalgia of homecoming.

The personal angle –

I must have been around six years old when we had visited Darjeeling for the first time. The only thing that I remember about that trip was that it was the first time we had been to the hills and Darjeeling tourist lodge served an amazing range of cuisines that literally melted in the mouth. The next time that we visited the city was just before I left home for pursuing graduation in Kolkata. There was an instant connect with this gorgeous place. The last visit that we made to this place was a month before I went on to join the corporate world.  Darjeeling to me is more than just a place, it is an emotion and feeling that can never be expressed in words. Also it is the last destination that we had been for a family holiday with my parents before marriage.

Enroute hills
View of Kanchenjunga amidst clouds – from my old album

Every year during Durga puja, Baba and I along with his colleague and his daughter, would hop on two pedal-rickshaws and cover maximum of Berhampore pujas over the span of last three days. By the time we returned home, it would be late evening and we would still be enthusiastically dressed up to sit and assess the crowd coming to see our para(area of stay) pujo pandal. Amidst all the pressure of studies and choosing a career , I grew up and moved out of the state. I yearned for home specially on those four days of Puja. Last year, my toddlers constant query about the look of Asura got us back to pandal hopping to give him an idea of how the same Asura can look different in various pandals. By the end of puja, I realized that it was time now to cherish Durga Puja through his eyes.

Durga Puja and pandal
Durga Puja pandal adorned by a gorgeous chandelier

See you tomorrow with more of Bengal.

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? Ex-Banker turned Blogger/Writer/Solopreneur. Any qualifications? A Post graduate degree in Chemistry followed by Post Graduate Diploma in Management. I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots to what I do presently. Have I done any real work? If two years in Market Research and six years in Banking (three different Banks though) as Branch Head can be considered as real work. Where do I live? After a nomadic sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Food, travel, books and my two and half year old toddler son What is this blog about ? Sonia's musings is an attempt to channelize emotions through words and pictures hoping they touch a chord with my visitors.

28 thoughts on “A dollop of Bengal – Darjeeling & Durga Puja”

  1. Love Darjeeling tea so much it’s my husband’s only competition. So I wrote this post about it. https://kanikag.com/women-relationships-twenty-years-and-going-strong.html . We went to Darjeeling on family vacation a few years ago and loved Glennary’s. I particularly enjoyed eating tea and biscuits and enjoying the view. And Durga Pooja was always something to look forward to as a child though I have only ever celebrated it in Bombay. IIRC the restaurant at the park Hotel is also really good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well written and it’s nice to read about Darjeeling. We are going there in the coming month. It’s a great summer escape for the Bongs from the birth to old age. I visited it at my childhood at the age of 8. Then, visited it just after marriage and now we are to show t it to my 5 years son.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your love for Bengal comes through every post of yours, Sonia!
    I visit the Durga Puja pandal every year. And, every time I look up at Ma, my eyes well up. I feel deeply overwhelmed to just be Her presence! Her strength, and Her love speaks through Her eyes. At times, I wonder if I was a Bengali in some past life! 🙂 The Bengali mithai and the language have always had a special place in my heart.

    Like

  4. I used to love the sights and sounds and energy of the Pujo days in Calcutta when we lived there for a couple of years during my childhood. This post took me back in time. Never been to Darjeeling so far, but it’s on my list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is the second time I am reading about Keventers today 🙂 and I loved reading this post! I had been to Kolkata specifically for Durga Pujo. And it was wonderful. Brings fond memories. Hopping from one pandal to other. And I loved that the crowd was so well behaved and wasn’t rushing and pushing through! The entire city seemed to be enchanted in unison till late nights. Loved the visit and the feeling 🙂

    D is Dumbfounded – Love is not my need

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another fantastic post, Sonia. I’ve been waiting far too long to experience Durga Puja. My wife still teases me about the fun she had when she visited Calcutta during Durga Puja, just after our engagement. The colors, the pandals… itching to witness soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved the way you have reminisced all those days… beautiful. I miss pandal hopping during Durga Pooja. Such a fun activity to do with family. I wish I had visited Darjeeling, but never got to even though it wasn’t too far away. Wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Durga Puja sounds colorful indeed. Asura looking different in different pandals! I like that. I have heard of that famous toy train in Darjeeling and have always wanted to travel in it. I have been to ootacamund and traveled in the mountain train but this toy train has caught my fancy and I will definitely make sure I travel in it at least once in my lifetime. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m thinking about visiting Darjeeling in mid October. Does the Durga Puja celebration mean it will be very crowded.
    I am travelling alone, female. Can there be issues for me?

    Like

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