For most people, Durga Puja is not just a festival, it’s an emotion. And thus, despite the heavy rains, people across the city have been coming out in large numbers to visit the various Bengali Durga pandals.
Filled with the beats of dhol, men and women performing the traditional Dhunuchi naach — a ritualised dance with an incense burner used for one of the stages during aarti, and several stalls of lip-smacking food — Durgotsav in these pandals is nothing less than a big carnival. The beautiful Protima or idol of Maa Durga, displayed along with the idols of Goddesses Saraswati and Lakshmi, and Lord Ganesh and Kartikeya, are a sight to behold.
For many Bengalis who are not able to visit their hometown during this season, these pandals are a home away from home. “Durga Puja is the most important festival for us Bengalis. People prepare for it all year long. But for people who work here, it is not possible to take long leaves and go to West Bengal. However, every Bengali in the city visits these pandals which are like mini-Kolkatas,” says Rahul Basu, an entrepreneur from the city.
Explaining the importance of Maha Ashthami, Rahul adds, “Maha Ashthami is when the Gods gave Goddess Durga all their weapons to fight the demon king Mahishasur. In the morning, we offer pushpanjali to the Goddess with 108 lotus flowers and 108 diyas. In the evening, Sandhya aarti is performed. Women clad in white and red saris perform Dhunuchi naach, and the traditional dhol is played. It’s just very overwhelming.” While Goddess Durga is worshipped as the Mother Goddess in most parts of India, Bengalis look upon the ten-armed Goddess as a daughter who is visiting her father’s house, accompanied by her daughters — Saraswati and Lakshmi and sons — Ganesh and Kartikeya.
“It’s a festival of many colours and emotions,” shares Srabani Mukherjee, who has been living in the city for around 10 years. Interestingly, she points out that the numbers of Durga Puja pandals in Hyderabad have increased over time. “When I first came here, there were only a few pandals. However, now as the Bengali community in the city is increasing, the number of pandals is also increasing. It’s heartening to see so many people coming to the pandal and enjoying the festival with their loved ones,” says Srabani.
Interestingly, the charm of these pandals doesn’t just attract the Bengalis, but people from other communities also come to pray to the Goddess and enjoy with their friends and family.
Monika Raj, a working professional from the city, shares, “There is so much that can be done in these pandals. Once you are done with the puja, you can go shopping for a beautiful Bengali cotton sari or sit and watch the cultural programmes organised here. And of course, the food is amazing. It’s a perfect place to hang out with your friends and family during the festive season.”