From Kolkata to Chennai: Here’s Our Round-up for Durga Puja Pandal-Hopping

Ma aaschen, and in anticipation, we list the best of Pujo in seven Indian cities.

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For the days of Durga Puja, Kolkata turns into a city-wide art gallery. Organisers and artists pull all stops to create masterpieces on varying themes from fantastical to socially poignant. Photo by: Shraddha Bhargava

From Kolkata to Chennai: Here’s our round-up for Durga Puja Pandal-Hopping 3

Tradition, like the ritual dhunuchi naach, and history are an important part of the pujos of Banaras. Photo by: John Henry Claude Wil/Dinodia Photo Library

BANARAS

Premier Boys Club

Organised by Premier Boys Club, the pandal here is the biggest, and grandest, of them all, and a theme based on prominent temples is chosen every year. There have even been light-and-sound shows to showcase the pandal. It is definitely worth braving the crowds to witness the spectacle.

Where: Hathua Market, Lahurabir

Purono Durga Bari

The legend goes that on Dashami, sometime in the late 1760s, the goddess told the head of the family looking after the temple, that she didn’t want to be moved and the idols have remained since. The festival is celebrated at the temple every year, and many pandals crop up in this Bengali hub during pujo.

Where: Bangali Tola, Madanpura

BHU Durgotsav Samiti

In Banaras Hindu University’s Madhuban garden, a small-scale Durga Pujo has been organised by the student-and-staff committee of Banaras Hindu University since 2004. During the day, the committee organises for about 1,000 people to have Prasad every day while cultural functions are usually the highlight of the evenings. The crowd usually includes students and patrons of the college.

Where: Banaras Hindu Univeristy

Sai Durga Puja Samiti

Organised by Sai Durga Puja Samiti, the pandal here is known for its fantastic light decoration, and machinated statues which recreate the scenes of Durga slaying the evil Mahishasura.

Where: Sanatan Dharam Inter College, Nai Sadak Road

Banarasi Durgotsav Sammelani (BDS)

The oldest Barowari pujo (a pujo organised by the public or a committee) in Banaras, the 96-year-old pujo here is very traditional. Their biggest draws are the protima sculpted by artists from Kolkata, and the dhunuchi naach, or dhunuchi dance.

 

BANGALORE

Socio Cultural Association

The ‘Golden Jubilee’ celebrations at this pandal includes a performance by Kumar Sanu, a dandiya night, and great food.

Where: Poornaprajna Education Centre, Hal 3rd Stage, Indiranagar

Bengalee Association

Heading into their 69th year, the Bengalee Association’s pandal is known to be Bangalore’s oldest and biggest. With over 60 food stalls, this is a must-stop for pandal-hoppers.

Where: Manpho Convention Centre, Nagawara

Sarathi Socio-Cultural Trust

Located in buzzy Koramangala, for this pujo, celebration is called ‘Sammad,’ their annual Durga Pujo-time music fest. This year, there is a “Battle of the Bands,” and a musical night by current Bengali music industry sensation Anupam Roy.

Where: Mangala Kalyana Mantapa, Koramangala

Ramakrishna Math Ulsoor

Keeping with the ideology of simple, traditional celebrations of Ramkrishna Maths, the no-frill pujo is all about faith and prayer. Of course, there is also delicious bhog.

Where: Ramkrishna Math, Ulsoor

Jayamahal Sarbajanin Durga Puja

The 64-year-old Jayamahal Durga Puja is pretty much the city’s most famous ‘theme pujo.’ Last year, there was a larger-than-life Mowgli guarding the gates. This year, the theme is Aliens.

Where: Jayamahal Extension

 

CHENNAI

Bengal Association

The oldest and the grandest of Chennai’s pujos, the Bengal Association is celebrating 85 years. From the bhog to the evening stalls, food is the big draw here.

Where: Giri Road, T Nagar

South Madras Cultural Association

Chennai’s most popular pandal, this one serves home-cooked Bengali meals along with the usual suspects in the stalls.

Where: TNHB Community Hall, Besant Nagar

Madras Kali Bari

The Kali temple, whose idol is modelled on Maa Bhavatarini of Kolkata’s Dakshineshwar Temple, organises a traditional pujo every year. A free meal is served to devotees during special pujo days.

Where: Iyappa Nagar Extension, West Mambalam

Shri Ramkrishna Math

The first of the Ramkrishna Maths to be set up in South India, the Durga Pujo here is all heritage and rituals. And just like with its counterparts, the bhog must be savoured.

Where: Ramakrishna Math Road, Mylapore

Dakshin Chennai Prabasi Cultural Association

The newest kid on the block, DCPCA turns five this year. It has stretched the boundaries and taken Durga Pujo outside the city to OMR. Cultural performances and food stalls, which often have sweets and dishes right from Kolkata are their USP.

Where: Shri Umadri Mahal, Sholinganallur

 

DELHI

From Kolkata to Chennai: Here’s our round-up for Durga Puja Pandal-Hopping 4

Delhi’s lanes are filled with the music of conch shells and dhaaks as Durga idols are taken to the immersion points along the Yamuna. Photo By: Exotica/Dinodia Photo Library

Chittaranjan Park

Called ‘Mini Bengal,’ the three-decade-old Bengali hub of Delhi, Chittaranjan Park or C.R. Park is the place to be in the city for Durga Pujo. There are four main pujos scattered through the area, all of which have decided to go green this year. Get here early before traffic gets the better of you. Now if that doesn’t remind you of Kolkata during the pujas, what will?

Where: Chittaranjan Park, South Delhi

Delhi Durga Puja Samiti (Kashmere Gate)

A highlight of what is one of the oldest pujas in the city is the ekchala protima and the traditional daaker shaaj—a reminiscent of the pujos of earlier days when zamindar homes brought in silver and golden foil decoration by post or ‘daak.’ Kashmere Gate is also known for the pomp of its Dashami bhashan or immersion.

Where: Bengali Senior Secondary School, Alipur Road

Milani Puja Committee

Take a break from tradition and bask in what is one of the main appeals of Durga Pujo in Kolkata: creative reimagining of the protima and pandal. Known for its theme-based pujos—last year their theme was the art of kantha interpreted by the verse Nakshi Kanthar Math by poet Jasimiddin—this one stands out for its originality of interpretation.

Where: Supreme Enclave Apartment, Mayur Vihar Phase 1

New Delhi Kali Bari

Another of the city’s oldest pujos, this is where you go if you are keen on observing the age-old rituals of the pujo. Everything here is carried out the traditional way, including the delights of a Kolkata-like neighbourhood cultural fest.

Where: Mandir Marg, Close to Birla Temple

Maitri Mandir Samiti

Pandals here are usually a replica of an Indian temple, but the highlight is idols made by artists in Kolkata. One of the more popular go-to haunts for Bengalis during pujo, their ritual Ashtami morning prayers, the  pushpanjali, is also a great attraction.

Where: Safadarjung Enclave

 

HYDERABAD and SECUNDERABAD

Hyderabad Bangalee Samity

The city’s oldest, started in 1942, the pujo has grown bigger every year, and apart from hosting traditional pujo aartis and bhogs, also have an extensive cultural programme which includes Bengali antakshari and dramas.

Where: P.V.R Convention Centre, Sri Ramakrishna Math Marg, Domalguda

Bengalee Cultural Association

The association, which also has a monthly wall magazine, was creating in the 1970s with the main aim of starting a community Durga Pujo. A host of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa singers, mimicry artists and dance troupes are ready to make the 45th pujo an eventful one.

Where: Banjara Function Hall, Masab Tank area, Banjara Hills

Cyberabad Bangali Association’s Durga Puja, Miyapur

Located in Cyderabad, the city’s IT district, this pujo is barely 10 years old but well-known for its fun-filled activities and cultural programmes.

Where: Naren Gardens, Miyapur

Bangiya Sanskritik Sangha

In their 53rd year, the pujo at Keyes High School grounds has all the usual suspects, and for extra flourishes is known to have stalls for silk sarees and egg rolls from Kolkata.

Where: Keyes Girls High School, Secunderabad

Hyderabad Kalibari

In the lanes of the Securderabad’s Bengali hub, Vivekanandapuram, the 44-year-old Kalibari or Kali temple host has been hosting a Durga Pujo for over 30 years. There is nothing fancy about the pujo here but go for the cultural functions and to experience a classical Bengali Durga Pujo.

Where: Hyderabad Kalibari, Vivekanandapuram, Secunderabad

 

MUMBAI

From Kolkata to Chennai: Here’s our round-up for Durga Puja Pandal-Hopping 5

Though not as glamorous as the pujos of Kolkata, the star-studded gatherings, delicious Bengali food, and grand idols of Mumbai’s Durga Pujas celebrations have their own charm. Photo By: Tukaram Karve/Shutterstock

North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samiti (Tulip Star)

Tulip Star is, essentially, the “star” puja of Mumbai. Organised by a well-known Bollywood family, the pujo here is an opportunity for star gazing. The guest list and, in recent years, innovative pandal and idol designs have given them a faithful local following.

Where: Location is changing from Tulip Star Hotel, Juhu, to Golden Tobacco Limited, Vile Parle this year

Ramkrishna Math and Mission

Head to the no-trappings pujo for a glimpse of a traditional celebration organised by the monks of the math. Their idol remains unchanged—a traditional ekchala idol or protima (the idols of Durga and her children together on one platform and one frame) and they serve a traditional Bengali bhog on all days of the puja. The evening aarti, when all the monks join in for the prayers, and the Kumari Puja on Ashthami are definitely events to witness here.

Where: Ramkrishna Math and Mission, Khar

Bombay Durga Bari Samiti

Often considered Bombay’s oldest, the pujo’s first idol came from Benaras in 1930. Members, participants and visitors have increased over the years but this pujo has retained its community, homely charm. Since last year, they have also been making an eco-friendly idol and this year, they are playing on nostalgia by recreating an old-school mela.

Where: Tejpal Hall, Grant Road

Bengal Club Durga Puja

This is one of the largest pujos in the city. The vast grounds around the simple pandal with a traditional Durga idol, have a wide range of stalls selling everything from Bengali food and snacks to sarees and handicrafts. A unique feature here also is that the Durga Pujo and Ram Leela venues are side by side and visitors can visit both.

Where: Bengal Club, Shivaji Park

Powai Bengali Welfare Association

The Powai Sarbojonin pujo has been gaining attention for its creative pandals. For the past few years, they have been recreating facades of famous temples such as Odisha’s Konark Sun temple and Delhi’s Lotus Temple. This year, the theme is community-centric, and the pandal will be built entirely of natural products like jute and bamboo. With great food stalls and engaging competitions, this one is always a hit.

Where: Hiranandani Gardens, Powai

Bonus: Navi Mumbai and Thane

The Navi Mumbai Cultural Association and Vashi Cultural Association organise the most well-known of Navi Mumbai’s pujos, with creative pandals, and food and handicraft stalls rivalling that of Shivaji Park.

Thane has a few smaller but extremely creative pandals—themes have included recreations of pujos in the huts of rural Bengal to a depiction of Mother Nature through Durga. Worth dropping in for a while.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

  • Lubna Amir travels in the search for happy places (which invariably involve a beach) and good food. When she’s not planning her next escape, you can find her curled up with a book or researching recipes.

  • Rumela Basu is former Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. Her favourite kind of travel involves food, literature, dance and forests. She travels not just to discover new destinations but also aspects of herself.

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