Of late my writing has been abysmal. It isn’t lack of inspiration cause if I could write it all, an avalanche of words would pour out. So much to express! Yet, secrecy is a good reason to keep it to self. Hence I shall talk about Durga Festival instead. Which I personally like to call the Bengali/North-East-Indian version of Oktoberfest.
Today is the seventh day of the Durga Festival (if you are in Switzerland, visit Swiss Puja for details), for those who haven’t studied Indology, here a short introduction. According to Vedic scriptures, the festival marks the victory of Durga in her battle against a shape-shifting Asura. Asuras are powerful superhuman demigods with good (Dev) or bad (Danav) qualities – the word is sometimes translated as “titan”, “demigod”, or “antigod”. Durga’s victory was against a Danav. Durga Festival (mainly celebrated in Bengal – both the state West Bengal in India and the country Bangladesh) is a celebration of Sakti. Sakti in vedic context is the metaphysical reality which is further considered metaphorically as a woman and Shakti or Mahadevi is regarded as the supreme godhead. Hence Durga is considered as the all mighty mother Goddess in modern day Hinduism. The earliest archaeological evidence of Shakti concept is found in an Upper Palaeolithic (better known as the Late Stone Age, dates between 50,000 – 12,000 years ago) shrine discovered in the terminal upper paleolithic site of Baghor (Baghor Stone). Anyhow, omit my Wikipedia babbling – the main reason I wrote that is cause of art and food.
Durga Festival is a walk-in gallery of one-time-visible-only art. Scenography that gets torn down on the 10th day of the festival and is never repeated. Somewhat like the Cliquen “sujet” of Basler Fasnacht. Even there you can find repetitions but not in the cliques thematic of Pandal (scenography) art in hundreds of Pandals during Durga Festival. It is an actual competition! As at, awarded by the ministry. Based on which clique or club came up with the most original and relevant scenography, including an interpretation of the idol based on the thematically constructed Pandal. Thousands and millions are spent in creating them, for one time only viewing, made immortal through photography. Durga Puja is the main festival that keeps Bengali artists and craftsmen/women alive.
And as all of Indian Hindus (kids included) keep fasting during Navaratri (as Durga Puja is known/celebrated by Indian Hindus) – Bengali’s are celebrating life and victory of the mother Goddess. Beer, fish and street food while our moms (even dads and grandparents) keep the fasting going – and occasionally they pull us by our ears to behave like good kids and show some respect to the deity. Well… do we listen? Nope.
This is exactly what I am craving right now (apart from traditional beats to wake me up in the morning aka সপ্তমীর ভোরের ঢাকের আওয়াজ) – authentic Calcutta food. Puchkas at Vivekananda Park, Calcutta kathi kabab roll at Parkstreet and College Street, Fish Orly at Bijoli Grill, Luchi-Alurdom at Fairlie Place, Ghugni Chaat at Dacre Lane, Jhal Muri at Triangular Park, Keemar Doi Bora at Burrabazar, Shingara at Manton Behala, Dragon Chicken and steamed Momo at South City Mall street, Ghoti Gorom at Princep Ghat, and last but not the least – Mughlai paratha (a few hundred kilometres from Calcutta at my ancestral hometown) Burdwan.
শুভ সপ্তমীর শুভেচ্ছা ||