Thursday evening saw the beginning of a four-day period of puja, music and feasting for Bengalis. It’s that time of the year when they deck-up in their traditional best and throng Durga puja pandals across the city. Besides the puja and other cultural activities, the star attraction that lures even the non-Bengalis to the pandals is the delectable Bengali cuisine available at stalls outside the pandal. It’s a family outing for many and sure is fun to watch them gorging on the eats at different stalls. Then there are stalls with saris, books, pillowcases and artefacts that do brisk business.
The Balkanji Bari pandal has been run by the Mukherjis for 62 years. Only the venue has shifted from Santacruz to Juhu. Here, the entire Mukherji clan (including filmstars Kajol and Rani Mukherji) serves bhog to everyone. Other Bengali celebrities join in.
“Unlike other pandals, we have proper seating arrangement for devotees to relish the bhog. Over the next couple of days, we’ll have Hema Malini’s dance troupe performing and an Alka Yagnik Night,” says Rani’s mother Krishna Mukherji.
Hanglas, the popular eatery, is one of the prominent food stalls here.
Bengal Club Durga Puja committee at Shivaji Park has turned into a gourmet delight with almost all Kolkata street fare—Kolkata Rolls, Egg Rolls, Mutton Chops, Fish Chops, Mutton and Chicken Biryani, Mutton Cutlet and Moghlai Parotas. There’s also a range of scrumptious Bengali sweets, Kosha Mangsho and Shorshe Ilish.
The Vashi Cultural Association, at Sector 15 has its pandal at the ICL school ground. It has stalls that sell Bengali sweets, Calcutta Rolls, Moghlai Parothas, Bengali Chaat. The handicrafts stall has cane and embroidered products from North Bengal. The main attraction, however, is a book fair by the Calcutta Book Guild, says PK Biswas, president of the association, “Forty-six publishers will display books on Bengali literature. There will also be devotional songs CDs and sarodiya (puja material) in the stalls,” he says.
Asit Ghosh is setting up a pandal at his house in Sector 12, Vashi. He will serve bhog for around 250 people every day and has also made arrangements for non-vegetarian food and handloom saris stalls. The Tandoori stalls, feels Ghosh, will be his trump card.
The Bengali Association, Sector 7, Koparkhairne is celebrating its 14th year of hosting the Durga puja festivities in the area. “The venue is a replica of Kolkata Town Hall. There’s a collage based on the Ramayana. It is made with pieces of 50,000 broken glass bangles,” says Dipankar Debnath, joint secretary of the association. Foodies have nine stalls to choose from.
Other major pandals in the city are singer Abhijeet’s at Lokhandwala, Sanjay Nirupam’s at Lokhandwala Circle and the newly established one at D N Nagar.