October is when the weather gets pleasant in most parts of India, and definitely very cool in the northern region which is closer to the Himalayas. This year is however an exception, what with global warming being the in-thing, the days continue to be fairly warm half way into the month. But this does not dampen the festive spirit, we continue to celebrate in pure abandon.
Indian festivals are bright and colourful. And considering that a billion and a quarter people celebrate them, they are crowded and chaotic. And because the honourable PM Mr Narendra Modi had to start the ‘Swachh Abhiyaan’ (Mission Cleanliness) for the country, you can safely assume that the lack of cleanliness spills into the way we celebrate our festivals too. I didn’t have to mention this here, but the lack of civic sense is so in-your-face, that you cant miss it and I wish we were slightly more civlised. Alas.
It is called Navratri in Gujarat, full of dance and garba and night-outs. This is celebrated as Durga Puja in West Bengal and as Dussehra in most parts of India. Festive time is also big business time, as evident in the newspapers, how they turn from a 10 page nothing-to-read-today, to a thicker than the latest best-seller novel, with every small, medium and big brand putting out full page advertisements. Even Apple cannot ignore the Indian market anymore, they synchronised their iPhone 6s launch in India just in time for this season.
I stay in CR Park in south Delhi, which is like a mini-Kolkata, and if you happen to land at Kali Mandir blind folded, you’d easily mistaken it for Deshopriyo Park or Maddox Square in Kolkata. Last week, I spent an evening photographing idols and the artisans who make the statues of Maa Durga (Mother Durga), capturing them make the final touches to the majestic idols as their customers came in for taking delivery. And a few days later, these idols are placed in the mela grounds.
Navratri/ Durga Puja culminate on the 10th day which is called Dussehra, which is celebrated as the day when Lord Rama defeated the ten-headed not-so-much-of-a-demon-but-still-a-villain Ravana, and also the victory of Goddess Durga over the totally-a-demon Mahisasur. This year, this tenth day was split between 22nd & 23rd October (diversity in unity!!) and I went pandal-hopping with my family.
My wife is a food blogger and every dish first gets framed in her camera, before it goes into my mouth, and I have learnt to live with this, lest I go hungry on some days. She was hell bent on tasting the ‘prasad’ at these pandals, comprising khichdi, aalu-subzee & tomato chutney. Hence began our outing in the afternoon.
Here is a series of pics from the famous Kali mandir and B-block Durga Puja pandals.