Last week I travelled to Kolkata (a.k.a. Calcutta) as part of my school’s “Experience India Week.” After 28 hours on a train, my group of 20 student and faculty finally arrived. We happened to be in Kolkata during Durga Puja, which is the largest festival celebrated in Bengal. From what I understand, Durga Puja is a celebration of the Hindu goddess Durga’s visit to her people. She is the daughter of the Himalayas, and once a year her husband Shiva lets her come for a visit. People celebrate by building and visiting puja pandals, temporary structures containing an idol of Durga in her moment of victory over the demon Mahishashura. At the end of the festival, all of the idols are immersed into the river so that Durga can return to Shiva.
We spent a whole visiting pandals all around the city. Although some are small, set up by a family or a local community, pandals are often elaborate and expensive. Many have a specific theme. For example, we saw a train pandal that included an entire three train cars; as you waited in line outside, you could hear the sounds of a busy train station, and walking through the cars on the way to the idol, you were surrounded by the sounds of a train.
Ok, I have lots more to add, but I need to go catch my bus. It’s Diwali here which means I get a few days off, and I’m headed out on another adventure! (No, not all I do is travel ;))