Durga Puja in Kolkata: Things to See and Do

Durga Idol | © AKS.9955/Flickr
Durga Idol | © AKS.9955/Flickr
Photo of Sridevi Nambiar
3 January 2018

No festival is celebrated in Kolkata with as much pomp and fervor as Durga Puja, and witnessing this city at its festive best is an experience not to be missed. We’ve compiled this guide to Kolkata’s finest Durga Puja offerings to help you plan your travels well.

Held over five to ten days, Durga Puja is India’s annual celebration of the Hindu goddess Durga. In Kolkata, Durga Puja takes on a bigger role – as the time to celebrate local artisans and their work. Hundreds of exquisitely crafted pandals (temporary tents carrying idols of the goddess) are set up, intricate colorful motifs locally known as Alpana are drawn on the city’s pavements and other public spaces, and festive lights illuminate every remote corner of the city.

Pandal Hopping

The most essential of all festive activities in Kolkata during this season is to go pandal-hopping or stopping by as many pandals as you can to both soak in their marvel, and to pay your respects to the goddess. Pandals range from modest bamboo marquees to extravagant, highly artistic and multi-storied structures. Within them you’ll find highly decorated terracotta statues of the goddess – usually sourced from Kumartuli, Kolkata’s very own artisans colony.

Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission Belur Math/Flickr

Among the city’s many and historic pandals, there are several noteworthy ones that draw in admiring crowds from around the country. Bagbazar Durga Pandal is over 100 years old, and the quintessential traditional pandal. Kumartuli’s durga pandal is another one to watch out for, with the local artisans using the occasion to display the best of their craft.

Festive Food

Kolkata is a foodie-haven, festival season or not. So one can imagine just how hype-worthy Durga Puja culinary indulgences are. All sorts of traditional mishti (sweets) and street snacks are prepared and consumed like there’s no tomorrow. From street food staples such as phuchkas, or Bengali pani puris to mishit doi, there’s way too much to be eaten during festival season.

To experience the best of Kolkata’s festive culinary scene, hit up one of the city’s historic sweet shops. Balaram Mullick and Radharam Mullick, one of the city’s oldest mishti makers is always a fantastic option if you’re looking to feast on a wide range of sandesh, rasgullas and other traditional treats.

Sandesh | Biswarup Ganguly / WikiCommons

If you are looking for a full traditional meal, head to one of the city’s popular authentic Bengali restaurants. Kasturi Restaurant in New Market Area and Oh! Calcutta in Bhawanipur are two excellent options.

Vegetarian Thali | © Triv.rao / WikiCommons