One of many pandals in Calcutta celebrating Durga Puja
My thirty-fifth visit to India was predominantly to see the second Indian Grand Prix for the first time but, as it turned out, I had booked months before to fly into Calcutta – without knowing where I would go thereafter and then discovered that, on the first available day to book trains, everything was full – and ended up taking a circuitous route to Delhi.
As I discovered, the trains were full because it was the first day of Durga Puja, the main religious festival in Bengal and I was indeed lucky to be there – albeit inadvertently, I have to admit – to witness this spectacle. My first few nights saw me in all kinds of different beds: after my home, I was in an airline bed – my seventh time on the luxurious Emirates Airbus A380 – followed by a hotel bed in Calcutta, a train berth, another hotel bed, another train berth followed by a half night in a hotel bed with the second part of the night being spent in another train berth. It was interesting but I didn’t mind having the same bed for five nights when I reached Delhi.
Inside one of the pandals in Calcutta
Ranchi High Street
Ranchi long distance bus. I suppose those on top still have to pay...
I was lucky in that a friend, Melvin de Doncker, showed me round some of the many Durga Puja pandals: for want of a better description, temporary temples put up by communities some of whom are sponsored and who try to be the best. We started off near the Tollygunge Club and, although night time is when Calcutta really becomes alive during this festival, the afternoons were plenty busy enough. The pandals vary in size and shape but all naturally share the same theme: Goddess Puja’s victory over the evil buffalo demon, Mahishasura. Goodness over evil. It seems to be celebrated...
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