Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata.

This post is about my first experience of witnessing the Durga Puja in the land of Bengal and specifically in Kolkata. A look at Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata.

durga puja 2020

India is a land of festivals with each region having its own unique tradition and corresponding celebration to go with it. However when I think of festivals which are celebrated with pomp and gaiety all over the country. Five come to my mind – Diwali, Ganesh Puja, Durga Puja, Christmas and Id ul Fitr. Read about Ganesh Puja celebrations here.

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Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata

Out of these, it is Ganesh Puja and Durga Puja which occupy unique stature for they are spread over 10 days which no other festival even gets close to. So this post is about my take on Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata.

durga puja 2020

Amid the gloom and doom fuelled by the Covid 19 pandemic, I was reminded of sayings from people whom I had met when I had initially arrived in the city( The journey is also interesting) . Invariably when it came to explaining Kolkata and what to see, the topic of Durga Puja would come up. They would explain how I was going to be bedazzled those 5 days in the city of Joy. Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata would be something to look forward to. The joy and the air of confidence with which they would proudly tell me of what lay ahead in autumn for the photographer in me used to fill me with visions of a grand spectacle on the streets of Kolkata.

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But then COVID stuck in March, and we all know how that panned out. Read my experiences out here. The months rolled by and I could not even visit Kumartuli lane( read here about my first visit here ) to have a look at the idols which were being made. It was not even clear if they were being made and on what scale. September arrived, and to the early morning rags of the Late Birendra Krishna Bhadra, we welcomed Mahalya.

durga puja 2020

Mahalya held a critical stage in the celebration of Durga Puja. This year, there was only confusion and a grey zone as to what to do. I was continually debating as to whether do I go out on the streets to witness the celebrations, rituals or stay indoors. Eventually, I could not muster the courage to go to either Kumartuli or the Ganga Ghats to see the ceremonies.

Days rolled by and eventually the first day of Navratri arrived. The 10 day-long festival which celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishsura stared at me as I sat fiddling with so many thoughts inside me telling me that I need to feel the festival.

By now, I had understood that in Bengal, Maa Durga is treated as a member of their own family. It is during Durga Puja that she is greeted so warmly as she arrives along with her family to her parents home, which is what each Bengali considers his/her home as. This visitation is the essence of Durga Puja.

Celebrated in Bengal primarily over the last five days, these five days are referred to as Sashti, Saptami, Ashtami. Navami and Dashami.

So finally as the countdown started and by the third day, I knew I could not control myself to stay indoors any more. With lot of sanitizers always over me on all the exposed skin of my body and with a mask to provide the necessary protection I decided to at least visit the Barowari Pujas which were being organized all over the city. With the help of local friends, I was able to get a gist of which Barowari Pujas to visit and accordingly went about seeing them. The account below is a visual depiction of these Barowari Pujas that I witnessed in 2020.

Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata

North Kolkata

BaghBazar Durgostab

North Kolkata was something that I was raring to go. However, with the whirlwind of information that the situation is grim out there, I was hesitant also. But then took a leap of faith and went off exploring North Kolkata. The first Pandal which I visited out there was the very famous and oldest among all Baghbazar Sarbojonin Durgotsab.

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The history of this Barowari Puja is as old as a century. In its 102nd year, I got the opportunity of witnessing it. It forms an inseparable part of the history and travels over time of Bengali culture for almost a century.

In fact, the autorickshaw driver ( known as Toto ) when he came to understand why I was out here, made it a point to inform me that this is the puja that needs to be seen first. It has the distinction of being the oldest running Barowari Puja in Bengal. There was so much pride in him as he made his way to the Pandal.

Kumartoli Durgostab

The second most important Barowari Puja to be seen in this area is the famous Kumartuly Sarbojanin Durgatsab. Established in the year 1931, it even had Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as its working president for 2 years. I walked down the lane of Kumartuly as the rain goads opened up to a light drizzle. The serene sculpture of the Mother Goddess was indeed a sight for searching eyes.

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Aihirtola Durgostab

One of the most reputed and old Barowari Puja organizers, the Aihirtola Sarbojonin Durgostab had this year as I came to know modelled the Pandal on the lines of the Somnath temple of Gujrat. Visited by the Chief Minister this year, as I stood seeing the Pandal, I realized that the idol of the Mother Goddess was chiselled in stone and sculpted.

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Nalin Sarkar Street Barowari Puja

Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojonin Durgotsab was celebrating its 89th celebration this year. I had seen the image of the goddess on my  Instagram feed, and that is what drew me in search for this elusive yet highly regarded Barowari Puja in the lanes of Kolkata. As per me, this was a simplistic depiction of Mother Goddess as well one of the most powerful images to be able to relate to owing to the minimalism theme used all over.

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Hathibagan Barowari Puja

In its 86th year of existence, the Hathibagan Sarbojonin Durgostab completed the top major Barowari pandal pujas in North Kolkata. Of course, there are many more, but for me in my first year in Kolkata, I aspired to see these Barowari Pujas of North. The addition to this list is the Kashi Bose lane which I will be speaking about in the next paragraph.

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Kashi Bose Lane Puja

In existence for 84 years, I came to know the Barowari Puja at Kashi Bose Lane, a nondescript lane in the bylanes of Northern Kolkata through Instagram. Off I went searching for this puja, and I was so glad that I could find this fantastic barowari puja pandal. One of the most pretty idols of Mother Goddess this year, the Kashi Bose Barowari Puja definitely was a significant highlight for me.

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South Kolkata near Ballygunge & Gol Park

Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata. In this region, I spent a lot of time exploring the bylanes for I was interested in the famous Barowari Pujo as well as the individual Lane Pujas being conducted. The famous ones which I managed to witness out here were .

Hindustan Park

One of the iconic Barowari Puja, now in its 90th year of existence. The theme for this year was a prayer for homecoming & recovery from the troubling times. It is one of the most anticipated Puja Pandals in this area and true to its name, the architectural work was eyecatching.

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Ballygunge Cultural Association

Ballygunge Cultural Association started organizing its Durga Puja celebration in 1951. I was informed that this Barowari Puja is among one of the top-rated star-studded Puja pandals that showcase a vibrant themed Mother Goddess each year. I was not disappointed, and the statement held true. Do have a look at the visuals.

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Samaj Sebi

I could not get to understand the theme very much out here. That may be because I was visiting this in the morning on Sashti day, and the Pandal was still being set up. But I gather that that trio of Samaj Sebi, Ballygunge cultural and Hindustan Park is a must-visit for all Puja goers.

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Mudiali Club

Mudiali club has a long history like many of its peers. 2020 was its 86th year in existence of celebrating Durga Puja. I also came to know that like many of the other established Barowari Pujo, they take part in many social activities and environmental causes throughout the year. Durga Puja is a way of giving back to society as well as upholding cultural beliefs.

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Ekdalia Evergreen

Ekdalia Evergreen began celebrating  Barowari Durga Puja in the year 1943. Since that day, it has grown from strength to strength. Today it is one of the most celebrated Barowari Pujas in the city of Kolkata. The biggest attraction at Ekdalia is the lighting and artistic arrangement for which this Puja pandal is famous for.

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Shib Mandir Sarbojonin Durgastob

The Shib Mandir Sarbojonin is not very acclaimed in the list of Pandals but notwithstanding it had a unique and exciting stage set up for this year. Definitely made a mark on me among all the pandals that I happened to visit.

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Jodhpur Park

The spacious Jodhpur Park is among one of the most prominent pandals in South Kolkata. I was particularly moved by the simplicity and grace of the idol sculpted. This remains among my top three inspiring idols of this year.

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Singhi Park Sarbojonin Durgastob

Established in the year 1941, Singhi Park Sarbojanin Durgastob celebrated its 77th Barowari Puja this year. One of the most popular pandals in this region, it has been accepted by all the local residents.

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Behala/New Alipore Area

In the run up to Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata. Out here I was venturing for the very first time, looking forward to seeing some of the most famous biggest Barowari Pujas in New Alipore and Behala region.

Behala Friends Club

This was a very unique pandal and the very first one which I visited in this area. The sanitization protocol was very much in place. It was in the morning when I saw the Behala friends Barowari Pandal. With minimal visitors, it was a breeze to visit this Pandal.

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Behala Nuton Dol Durga Pandal

In its 54th year, Durga Puja of Behala Nutan Dal has become a phenomenon in the history of Kolkata Durgostab. One of the most gentle-looking idols that I saw of Maa Durga ever, this sculpture took my heart away. Do have a look at the visuals.

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Barischa Club Durga Puja

This Pandal Puja took the region by storm with the depiction of a migrant mother carrying her toddler in her arm, thus replacing the traditional image of the mother goddess with this depiction. Drawing praise all over the internet with visitors thronging to see the picture, this was an apt depiction of the current pandemic times in India .

Haridevpur Ajeya Sanghati Club

In its 61st year, the enthusiasm and innovative design at Ajeya Sanghati club were on display very evidently. I visited the Pandal in the daylight hours; hence the lighting, which was a major attraction of the Pandal, could not be seen by me.

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New Alipore Suruchi Sangha

The Suruchi Sangha club pays specific emphasis on a cultural-based theme each year, and this year was no different. With exquisite craftsmanship, the beauty of the idol was increased manifold. Established in 1952, it has been organizing the Durga Puja for the last 55 years.

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Chetla Agrani Club

The lighting and the Mother Goddess idol was the mainstay of the Chetla Club pandal this year. Established in 1959 this club has been the anchor for various sporting avenues for the skill development of the residents. I visited the Pandal in the morning hence could not get a glimpse of the eye-catching lighting done.

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Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata

Bonedi bari Durga Pujo

In addition to the above Barowari Pujo pandals,was fortunate to have been granted access to witness the Bonedi Bari( traditional household ancestral puja ) of Shovabazar Rajbari. Though I maintained the distance as the situation demanded, the visit was so fulfilling. To witness, all the rituals and tradition would have been an event to remember indeed.

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So this is it when it comes to my experience of soaking in Durga Puja in Kolkata. All I assimilated that Durga Puja in Kolkata is an amalgamation of joy, grief at the time of departure of the Mother Goddess. A few days of intense celebration across all ages and stages of the society . A time, where entire Bengal comes together to bond and celebrate under the spirit of the Mother goddess.

Pro Tips

  • Plan you visit schedule day wise
  • Utilise 5th ,6th & 7th day to see the Pandals and the idols .
  • Only for certain pandals venture out for the night lighting clicks else use the daylight hours .
  • Use a long zoom to get those close up tight frames and a medium wide for perspective shots. I used 100-400 mm zoom & a 28 mm Prime. The results were fantastic i must say seeing the frames that i could get.
  • For 8th,9th & 10th day, my suggestion is go for the Lane Pujas and Bonedibari Puja to get a sense of the rituals and ceremonies.

For further visuals ranging from architecture to travel destinations, flora and fauna of India; browse my stock gallery. Click on this inline link here.

25 Replies to “Durga Puja 2020 and my introduction to Top Pandals of Kolkata.”

  1. For a Bengali like me going through your blog right now about Durga Puja is such a visual treat, to the extent of getting nostalgic. It is beautifully documented.
    Keep posting more.

  2. I have never heard of Durga Puja. It sure sounds like a very festive and important celebration though. I think it’s wonderful that different cultures have various celebrations that bring them together to share a common cause. I am so glad that the pandemic didn’t take this experience away from you.

  3. This is a very long and detailed posts about the Indian culture and I learned a lot from it. Thanks a lot for sharing with us and I enjoy the read. 🙂 – Knycx Journeying

  4. Being European, this read was so fascinating – like reading a beautiful fairy tale. Also your pictures are absolutely stunning and illustrate your beautiful writing.

  5. This part of their culture has always been intriguing to me. I want to personally experience it, hopefully with my entire family in tow 😊

  6. This is the first time I read deeply about this place and I find it very powerful. Hope we can visit this beautiful place in Kolkata soon.

  7. I had no prior knowledge nor saw a Pandal in my life but coming across your post made me realize much more of the immnse beauty and craftsmanship of the Indian culture. Absolutely beautiful!

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