Of Maa, Mishti and More – Durga Pujo

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The well-known Ramakrishna Mission Hospital and Math was situated on the route between school and home. Every Pujo season, on the way to and from school, I peeped out of the car window to see if the Pandal’s were being set up yet. The excitement of spotting the bamboo skeleton of the Pandal being set up in the hospital compound meant it was soon going to be Pujo Time!

The day of Mahalaya announced the end of the somber period of Pitru-Paksh. Mahalaya is also the day when Goddess Durga starts her descent towards earth. The feeling of Maa Aschen (Maa is on her way) brought about excitement in the air.
When Saptami , the 1st day of Pujo, dawned we dressed up to welcome Durga Maa, who scriptures say visits her Maika (her mother’s house) during this period. And so we went, in our traditional best, discussing and betting on the the color of the saree Maa would be draped in this year.


The first glimpse of Durga Maa always, but always, takes your breath away. You stare awestruck at that serene face, those eyes that convey myriad emotions, the flowing tresses, the saree and jewels, a sight to behold. After we had soaked in Durga Maa’s sight to our hearts content Mom used to perform a small ritual of ‘nazar nikalna’ , getting rid of the evil eye we may have cast on Maa, by waving both her hands in a semi arc towards herself and then cracking her knuckles on either sides of her temples. The louder the cracks, the more the nazar, was the belief.
Aarti time meant prayers and chants echoing around the pandal and the Pandit’s waving large inverted chandelier like lit diyas in front of Maa. Getting ‘Khichuri’ as the Bhog (Prasad) after the aarti was a special treat!

Lots of little shops surrounded the main pandal, a special few with ladies selling homemade sweets and snacks. We always headed first to Mom’s favorite shop, where she stocked up on Khukumoni Alta and Sindoor, Shakha-Pola and Loha  the red and white set of bangles worn by married Bengali women. The Shankh (conch shell) which was inspected to within an inch of its life before it was deemed a perfect buy to sound at home during her evening Pooja. Beautifully painted clay faces of Durga Maa were our picks.

My set of Shakha-Pola-Loha that I bring out to wear each year during Pujo time. The Mahatirth Sindoor is what I got as a blessing when I visited the Kalighat Temple.

After the Pooja (worship) and shopping it was Pet-pooja (eating) time and we hit the food stalls! I would head straight to the Mishti(sweet) stalls and buy my favorite Sondesh, Mishti Doi, Bappa Doi, Chomchom and Lobongo Latika. And the tantrum I threw if any of my items weren’t available or had sold out! Ghugni, Puchkas and Jhalmuri made up our savory snacks. We always finished it all off with a bright pink Candy Floss each!

Thus we welcomed Durga Maa. And whenever we did it never failed to remind me that no matter how we may treat our female population, the pomp, splendor and celebrations for our female Goddesses is unmatched!

Disclaimer: I am a Punjabi born and brought up in Bombay , despite which my fervour for Pujo time is on par with all the Bengali’s I know 😀 Any mistakes I may have made in the post above are my own. Do feel the need to point out the required corrections.

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  1. Can you believe that I’ve never gone pandal hopping? Durga Puja is fascinating but somehow I’ve only read about it.

  2. Ditto what Rachna has to say! I’m not religious or God fearing, but I do want to check this out once.

  3. Ironic isnt it? the Goddess is worshipped with all pomp and happiness. Yet the female population is starved for basic respect in many parts of our society.

    On a happy note, Pandals are the loveliest things about Dussehra. Love the vibrance and colours of life they hold within.

  4. I was trying to remember whether you are mixed parentage orsome Bengali connect.Just the right words and feelings.I love wearing sankha pala and loha. I still don’t believe you are Punjabi. Awesome post

  5. It is hard to believe that you have no bengali connection. But I am glad you are a proud punjabi like me..Beautiful post 🙂

  6. I know what you say about how women are treated vs the celebrations around Durga Puja. I loved going to Pandals and have done that since childhood.

  7. You’ve a big bear hug due when (and if) we meet someday 🙂 I’ve hardly seen such fervour about pujo in ‘non-bengalis’ as we call youguys.
    Also, you had me at Khukumoni Alta and Sindoor, obviously!Can’t recall the last time I’ve bought them myself.

  8. Not been to a Pandal till now. I don’t like crowds much. :/
    But I am a Durga devotee. 🙂
    Great post, Mayuri!

  9. Lovely post. Bong or not, Durga Puja is a wonderful time. Glad you always enjoy it 🙂

  10. That was one bang on write up on how a typical Bengali kid celebrates Durga Puja.

  11. Mayuri Nidigallu Amrita

    I loved this trip down memory lane.Durga Pujo is always so much fun.The deity, the pooja, the incense sticks, flowers, and food.

  12. Heard about the Maa Durga celebration being extraordinary in Bengal. How many avatars of Maa?

    1. There are 9 Avatars of Maa. For Pujo time Durga is the main Idol, with Saraswati and Laxmi flanking her.

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