Finally the time has come to celebrate Kolkata's biggest festival, Hinduism's answer to Christmas: Puja! It celebrates the most important goddess herself, Durga Puja, who has 9 arms, crazy witch hair and rides a lion. I don't pretend to understand the Hindu mythology behind it, especially as I don't speak Bengali and my most valuable reference is the Religion section at the start of my Lonely Planet guidebook. But from what I do understand weeks of planning, building and buying culminate in each settlement erecting a temporary castle structure called a Pandal along the main road from countryside to Kolkata. Once inside, the focal point is a representation of the beautiful Durga and her lion with other goddesses on either side. Over the 5 day celebration, Hindus host community competitions and swap presents and worship. The festival culminates with locals descending on the brightly lit road in their new glad rags to Pandal hop, from one colourful structure to another.
I was invited to join one of the female wards so having dabbed on our lippy and clipped back our hair we set off on this highly anticipated excursion. I have been visiting several pop up outpatient clinics in nearby rural towns this week, so have seen the construction progress but the palpable excitement and enthusiasm from the women as we visited these beautiful structures made the night even more special. To see my pics, click the link below:
Lots of love