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.
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.
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.
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.
Balaram and Radharam Mullick: 2, Paddapukur Rd, Jadubabur Bazar, Bhowanipore, Kolkata, India
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.
Kasturi Restaurant: 7A, Mushtaq Ahmed Road, Kolkata