When in Rome do as the Romans do! So, when in Kolkata during Durga Puja, visit these 10 puja pandals to make sure you get your fill of the sumptuous and satiating bhog (food served at lunch hour for everyone). From khichudi-labra (lentils and rice cooked together with a side dish of mixed vegetables) to luchi-alur dom (fluffy, fried bread with a side of slow-cooked spicy potato curry), you will find it all.
64 Pally, Satish Mukherjee Road
One of the oldest sarbojanin (open to all or public) pujas in Kolkata, this one is an amalgamation of two youth pujas started in 1949 and 1951. Today the puja is popular for its extraordinary themed decorations every year and the finger-licking bhog. Continued to be cooked in the traditional style, and not by caterers, veterans vouch for the taste of this one. On your way out, be sure to pick up their puja publication that boasts of some of the top names of Bengali literature.
Samaj Sebi Sangha, Ballygunge
Started in 1946 amidst the turmoil of the freedom struggle by a group of young freedom fighters, to bring together people and serve them, the puja continues to be a highlight of everyone’s pandal hopping experience. And they provide bhog with a purpose. It feeds not just famished pandal hoppers but all and sundry. They maintain the traditional bhog of khichudi-labra with desserts made by some of the oldest names in the city. Be sure to notice their theme because it reflects the charity they collect for that particular year. The year 2018 is dedicated to eye donation.
Sovabazar Rajbari, Hati Bagan
Looking for a regal touch during Durga Puja? Start here. Started in 1757 by Raja Nabakrishna Deb, today both his sons continue the tradition in both the houses. Ashtami (the eighth day) and Navami (the ninth day) is of special significance because the gates are opened to all for a sit-down bhog. From khichudi to pulao, from sandesh to payesh, they serve more varieties than you can eat, including their extremely popular mete chochori (mutton liver cooked with vegetables). Amongst the oldest and the most popular bonedi (affluent) pujas in the city, it’s a must visit for anyone who wants to experience the grandeur of the blue bloods.
Also read: The Delicious Story of Kosha Mangsho
Pataldanga Basu Mallick Family Durga Puja, off College Square
Started in 1831 by the founder of the family, Radhanath Mallick, once here, you wouldn’t know whether to concentrate on the bhog served or the architecture. Both compete equally for attention. Later, one of the grandsons, Kshetra Chandra Basu Mallick started a second puja, a fitting tribute to his grandfather’s legacy. Today both the pujas attract large numbers of visitors interested both in the family history and the bhog served. But don’t miss the sweets. Instead of being made by local shops, sweets are brought from their places of origin. Rest assured, you won’t stop at just one!
Laha Bari Durga Puja
A 200-year-old puja, this one is a travelling affair. Started by Madhu Mangal Laha, it flourished under his successors. It is alternatively held at Bidhan Sarani house of Kristodas Laha, Muktaram Babu Street house of Ramcharan Laha, Kailash Street house of Joy Gobinda Laha, or the Bechu Chatterjee Street house of Parbaticharan Laha. Their Durga idol is different from anything that you’ll see anywhere else. She comes in the lap of Shiva with her children, and holds no arms and kills no asura (demon).
Bhukailash Rajbari, Khidirpur
A 300-year-old puja started by Maharaja Joy Narayan Ghosal, they are most popular for their twin Shiva temples. Their Durga idol is unique as it is made of ashta-dhatu (eight metals) instead of clay. Head there on a Navami (the ninth day) to gorge on the delicious bhog.
Bagbazar Sarbojanin, Bagbazar
Started in 1919, this one has seen freedom fighters at its helm, including Subhash Chandra Bose as its president. The puja continues to attract people from all across the city. While you dip your fingers in their delicious bhog, you can also visit the exhibition where you can find handicraft or, simply, more food in unique combinations that can’t be found the year-round.
Ekdalia Evergreen Club Durga Puja, Ballygunge
One-stop for all religious visits! Started in 1943, this sarbojanin puja is popular for its unique replicas of temples around India every year. Add to that the delicious, traditional bhog served for visitors, and you have yourself a winner.
Nilmani Dey Bari, Hidaram Banerjee Lane
Head to this 116-year-old puja that is believed to have started after the founder, Nilmani Dey was instructed through a divine dream. The idol is made of kashti stone and the bhog is to die for. The puja continues to be celebrated in the Vaishnav-style with no place for symbolic animal sacrifice, and pure vegetarian food.
Salt Lake Durga Pujas
Spend an entire day here eating bhog and experiencing various themes. It is difficult to select one puja in the whole of Salt Lake. All the community pujas in Salt Lake serve bhog, irrespective of whether you are a member or not. In addition, they bring alive the theme through performances and artistic displays.
With so much delicious bhog to get through, I’m fasting already (not for the waist line but to make sure I taste it all).
Images are only for representation.
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