Durga Puja is one of the auspicious occasions celebrated in almost every parts of India. Major celebrations are observed in Bengal, where Puja pandals are set with huge idols of the Goddess Durga. Durga Puja is a grand occasion when the familiar sound of Dhak, the spirit of ‘Dhunuchi Nachh’ and the fragrance of the Shiuli flower creates a majestic spur in every Bengali heart. Bengalis from all over India visit their home town and reconnect with friends and relatives during festival days and exchange gifts. It is the most happening festival of the Bengalis. Go shopping, or enjoy looking at the beautiful idol and the creative pandals or simply give ‘adda’ (get together) with friends and relatives, Durga Puja brings happiness and content to every body.
Apart from West Bengal where Durga Puja is the popular celebrated festival, Assam, Jharkhand, Tripura, Orissa also significantly celebrates the festival and has the five days of the puja as annual holiday. West Bengal and Tripura has the majority of the Bengali Hindus and therefore Durga Puja is the major festival of the year. Durga Puja holds immense socio-cultural importance in the Bengali society. It is the time of reunion, celebration, and to show love and affection towards each other. Other than the eastern part of India, Durga Puja is also celebrated in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kashmir, Andra Pradesh and Kerala. Durga Puja is also celebrated in Nepal and Bangladesh where 10% of Hindu population is found. Today many Bengali cultural organizations arrange for Durga puja even outside the country such as United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Singapore and Kuwait.
Kolkata ‘sarbojanin’ pujas are renowned for their creative themes and exquisite skills. Several months prior to the puja, committees organizing the puja decide on a particular theme and the elements related to the theme are incorporated into the pandals and even into the idols. Sometimes themes are created to give a particular regional reflection to the pandal and the idol. Popular ones are the Rajasthani themes, Meghalaya or Manipuri themes, Nagaland themes creating a reflection of the lifestyle and festival of that particular region and land. Sometimes the themes are also simple like a famous Durga temple or just a reflection of village life with similar idol or pandals artistically decorated with bamboo leaves, match sticks, glass pieces and even with biscuits and lozenges. Other popular themes are ancient civilizations like the Incas or Egyptians and contemporary subjects like Harry Potter castle and RMS Titanic and many more.
TV and Radio channels telecast each and every detail of the Puja celebration. Popular TV even organizes puja special episodes to telecast live shows in front of a renowned puja pandal. Many Bengali channels devote entire days to the Puja. Even regional and national newspapers publish special edition dedicated to Puja which contains the photographs of puja pandals and works of many writers.
During the days of puja women prepare puja special delicacies and present before the Goddess and then share them with friends and relatives. Rasgulla, Misti Doi (sweet curd), Payasam are the popular sweet items. The famous Puja Bhog (Prasad) items are the Khichri, Alur Dom, Luchi, Labra are distributed among the devotees after being offered to the Goddess.