Ma Durga's Numerous Avatars Has Kolkata Spoilt For Choice

The Durga idol with a thousand arms at Deshapriya Park in Kolkata.

Kolkata: On Mahashashti, the first day of Durga Puja, the goddess has spoilt Kolkata for choice. One can visit close to a thousand pandals in the city and see Durga in her innumerable avatars - as a tribal woman, a Rajasthani queen, a south Indian belle or a Bengali daughter.

But she stands for just one truth - the victory of good over evil. And Kolkata is out celebrating this.

Across the city, conch shells, ululation and the beating of drums announce the arrival of the goddess.

Sreela Chakrabarty, who is home from Pune for the holidays, says: "Symbolically, she is the all-powerful Ma Durga who destroys evil. But basically this is one time of the year when the family meets and everyone is happy."

Her husband Apurba Chakrabarty, on a visit to a pandal in Ballygunge with his whole family, says: "Annual rejuvenation, that's what Durga Puja means to me."

Novelty is a big draw. At Deshapriya Park, the Durga idol this time has not 10, but a 1,000 arms. Last year, the idol at Deshapriya Park was the tallest ever at 88 feet. It had also led to a near stampede.

Some people, however, still prefer the traditional Durga idol. Engineering student Krittika Roy likes the traditional idol of the goddess, but is on the look out for creative idols. "I am not looking for novelty, but artistic creativity from the idol maker," she says. Her friend Richa adds,"Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Tradition is great. But trendy is better."

For the next four days, Kolkata will celebrate with anjali, bhog, pandal-hopping and prothom prem or first love. But also prayers for those who keep us safe.

Salt Lake resident Bulbul Sen, who is organizing the puja for the goddess at a local pandal said: "We shall certainly ask Ma Durga to keep our sons on the border safe."  In the midst of frenzied celebrations, a sentimental note. But for Bengalis, Durga Puja is an emotion, always felt but expressed once a year with extravagance and a flourish.
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