Mumbai's growing Bengali population means that Durga Puja festival celebrations kicked off in a big way in the city today (Durga Puja starts in Kolkata tomorrow). The occasion isn't just about seeing and worshiping the beautifully handcrafted statues of Goddess Durga. It's also about shopping, eating, music, entertainment and having fun.
There's a wide variety of events to choose from this year in Mumbai. The most popular ones include:
- Bengal Club in Shivaji Park, Dadar, has one of the biggest and oldest Durga Puja celebrations that's into its 78th year this year. The pandal represents the ancient Bishnupur Temple in West Bengal and a team of artisans from Shantiniketan was called in to decorate it. They used environmentally friendly terracotta materials. Stalls selling all kinds of handicrafts, sarees, and jewelry are a major attraction.
- The Times of India Lokhandwala Durgotsav, in Andheri West, was conceptualized by Bollywood singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya in 1996. It's Mumbai's largest and glitziest celebation, with plenty of celebrity performances, fashion shows, and even rock bands. The event will run for 10 days, and the theme is an amalgamation of Christmas and Diwali, as well as Durga Puja. Expect some amazing lighting on the set!
- North Bombay Sarbojonin Durga Puja in Juhu, started by Bollywood's Mukherjee family more than 60 years ago, is the Bollywood industry's favorite puja. The pandal will have a traditional Bengali look this year but there will still be plenty of performances by Bollywood stars.
- In Bandra West, the Notun Polli Sarbojonin Durga Puja near National College, off Linking Road, is another well known event with a Bollywood connection. It was founded over four decades ago by late Bollywood director Shakti Samanta. There's a towering 20 foot golden Durga idol and traditional festivities, including a cultural program.
- The 84 year old Bombay Durgabari Samitri, in Peddar Road south Mumbai, is Mumbai's oldest Durga Puja. It's also known for retaining old Bengali traditions. Nearly 70 prisoners from Kolkata will perform at the cultural program.
- Bengali Welfare Association's Durgotsav in Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, is a relative new one that's into its 8th year this year. The pandal is a 75 foot high replica of the Chamundeshwari Temple in Mysore. In addition, special street lighting has been created by internationally acclaimed technicians from Chandannagore in West Bengal. The prisoners from Kolkata will also perform here, as well as Bollywood singer Shaan.
- The Ramakrishna Mission in Khar holds a traditional temple-focused Durga Puja celebration, including a Kumari Puja where a young girl is dressed up and worshiped as Goddess Durga, on Asthami (October 12).
An honorable mention goes to the Spandan Foundation's Sharadotsav Durga Puja, which I attended today in Powai. Labeled as "A Festival with a Purpose" its theme is the empowerment of women. It aims to instill in people that "Respecting Woman is Worshiping Durga". The pandal has been designed in accordance with the theme and is embellished with objects that are associated with women. It conveys the message well, and the Durga idol set against a deep red background is stunning!
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