The year, too, has been a depressing one with the pandemic raging for most part, keeping people confined to their homes and the fear of the virus lurking everywhere. But whenever the sun has been shining through the dark, forbidding clouds, albeit for a brief while, for mellow, autumn rays to filter through, the scare has been dissipating. They have been signalling the arrival of the goddess, a hope for the revival of normalcy and announcing the triumph of good over evil and of the defeat of demons.
Puja being less than a week away and the pandemic finally showing signs of an ebb, it’s time to put away the fear and celebrate with caution. And a time to welcome back those who have left the city to take up jobs or to study in other cities or seek a fortune beyond the shores of our country. It’s time to return to our roots, even as we embrace the faith that the goddess instils in us and share the joy that the festival brings with it.
There could be no better time to return to Kolkata than the Puja. This is when the city throbs with laughter and celebration, decks up in lights and revellers take to the streets to soak in the inimitable spirit of the festival.
We at TOI are celebrating this homecoming with a new edition of our tribute to the city, Phirey Esho Kolkata. We are looking forward not only to the return of the Mother Goddess but also all those who have had to go elsewhere and implore them to come back home for the Pujas, to return to a Kolkata that has changed beyond recognition over the past few years. With its multiple new flyovers, wider roads, a fast-expanding Metro service, a growing New Town, it holds out much promise.
Durga Puja remained an inseparable motif of the city as well as of the power within, said eminent Kolkatans.
There’s no other festival like Durga Puja anywhere else in the world, said painter Wasim Kapur. "Covid or no Covid, the Puja brings the same kind of excitement every year and it will be no different this time. Most of my friends and relatives living in other cities or abroad, return to Kolkata during the Pujas. And, they have the best time of the year, they say," said Kapur, a Kolkatan since birth.
The Pujas are an inspiration and something to look forward to, especially in these difficult times, said author Manishankar Mukhopadhyay. "It’s the biggest festival for all who have had anything to do with Kolkata, not just Kolkatans. Just as Kolkatans from other cities or countries pine to return to the city during the Pujas, so do others across the state. For someone living in Howrah, the pujas there are just as dear as the Kolkata pujas are to Kolkatans," he said.
Cardiac surgeon Kunal Sarkar said he was looking forward to the Pujas despite the threat of Covid. "We have suffered enough, physically and psychologically over the last 18 months. It’s time to rid ourselves of the drudgery and let our hair down," said Sarkar.
He, however, cautioned that enjoyment should be tempered with caution. "The only difference between the last Puja and this one is that we have had the second wave and a decent section of our population has been vaccinated. We should still be wearing masks and avoiding crowded places. But let us welcome our near ones back and have a safe, enjoyable Puja," added Sarkar.
The earliest references to Durga can be found in the Rig Veda, considered the most ancient Indian text, where she is invoked in the Devi Shuktam hymn. She is also mentioned in the texts of Atharva Veda and Upanishads, apart from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Durga Puja references are found consistently in ancient texts since the 16th century, according to mythologist Nrisinghaprasad Bhaduri. "From the 18th century onwards, the Pujas have taken on a bigger form. They have gradually transformed into a community celebration from a domestic religious occasion and continued to grow over the past two centuries. Like any other festival, Durga Puja, too, has grown in stature and grandeur in a normal course," said Bhaduri.
There’s now a strong economic side to the Pujas, Bhaduri pointed out. "It plays a part in boosting the local economy since people spend during the festival. I see nothing wrong with that," said Bhaduri.Read Full Story here: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/durgas-calling-come-back-to-life/articleshow/86793581.cms