Durga Pujo. The single most biggest festival in Eastern India. It of course at it's root is a religious festival where we worship the Hindu goddess Durga who basically comes back home (where, earth is home) for 14 days or such. But the main festivities last for only a week. Of course, over the years it's become one of the major socio-cultural event that the Eastern Indian society participates in.
This is probably the only religious festival where (thankfully) Religion has taken a back seat. It's like Religion and Culture met and had a fist fight (for some unknown reason) and Culture beat the holyshitingsky out of religion! I'll tell you why it's more of a social event than anything else:
1. People belonging to all religions are out on the streets for 5 whole days having fun, without a damned care in the world.
2. For the Eastern States its a 5-day long State Holiday! Now, who wouldn't like that! Everybody needs 5 day long state holidays. I mean, come on!
3. All the 'pandals' (or the decorative tents and structure where they house Goddess Durga's Idol for the whole week) have themes that vary from Brazil winning the football cup, the 9/11 WTC Attack, or the phenomenal success of Harry Potter or Titanic, Global Warming or sometimes based on ancient civilizations like the Incas or Egyptians. There is a whole glorious world out there when it comes to pandals.
4. Durga Pujo generated so much employment during that time of the year (for the street hawkers, pandal makers, priests and more) . It may be a temporary spike but it's helpful nonetheless. Also, it is usually going from the pockets of the richer to the lesser blessed. So you see? nothing to lose but much to gain :)
And not to mention, it's unadulterated fun.
So yes, you're part of the festival if you do any or all of the following things:
1. Take a leave of 5 days.
2. Buy new clothes
3. Eat lots of street food.
4. Spend those 5 days doing nothing but catching up with friends and family.
All I'm saying is, I hope I can make people elsewhere understand how much I love and adore my culture and how all embracing it is. I'm not religious for most part. But this part right here with all the pomp and show of the Pujas...is such an essential part of my life that I'd love to infuse even a fraction of the enthusiasm I feel for it through what I'm writing.
Dear Calcutta, can. not. wait!