It is that time of the year Bengalis across the globe eagerly look forward to. The air has a festive feel and the next few days are all about revelry, pujo pandals and of course, adda. Durga Puja is all about bonhomie and cheer for the Bengali community. The smell of kashful, smoke from dhunno, the beats of dhaak and the feel of new clothes on the body make every Bengali’s heart leap with joy. Chennai is probably not Kolkata but it is still home for a significantly huge Bengali population that has been steadily rising year-on-year. There are more than ten pujas that take place across Chennai. If you are planning to take a day off and go pandal hopping in the city, here’s what to expect:
Mornings are all about Pushpanjoli and Proshaad
While the timings of pushpanjoli might differ on each day of the pujo, the idea of waking up in the morning and fasting till you have managed to reach the pandal in time for mantra recital during pushpanjoli is something most Bengalis look forward to. Taking a quick shower, wearing your ‘slotted’ new dress and admiring yourself in front of the mirror might take a little time though! After pushpanjoli you can have your first round of fol proshaad (fruit-based Prasad) and bonde (boondi).
Round one of Adda
After you have managed to feed yourself some proshaad, it is time to engage in adda or pointless chatter with friends and family. This can continue for hours together accompanied with cha (tea) and probably a pokoda or two from the stalls that are set up in the pujo vicinity. All this while the mantra recital, smell of incense sticks and music of old Kishore Kumar bangla songs from a distant corner add on a different dimension to your adda.
Noons are all about relishing Bhog
Through the year you might have had khichudi (khichdi), labra (mixed vegetable in Bengali style) and tomato chutney, but nothing tastes more heavenly than Durga Pujo bhog in the communal set-up. As you and your friends volunteer to serve in the first few batches and eventually sit down to savour the bhog yourself, it is one of the most satisfying meals you have had.
Evenings are meant for Pandal Hopping
While in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, there are lots of pujos in the vicinity; in Chennai things are a little different. Most of the pujos are scattered in different parts of the city, which makes it difficult to move from one place to another and to add to this Chennai’s traffic in peak hours make it a nightmare. But if you must pandal hop, you can probably pick the most famous pujos in the city. South Madras Cultural Association in Besant Nagar attracts a large crowd. They have an average footfall of more than one lakh per day. The style of pujato the setting of the pandal, they like to keep it traditional without changing the aesthetics. In addition, they have a large number of food stalls that serve delicious biryani, korma, rolls, chop and mishti. From Besant Nagar you can go to the new pujo that started on OMR about couple of years ago and is held at Dakshin Chennai Prabasi Cultural Association at Gem Inn Resort near AGS cinema. This pujo is held across a large area with ample open space, is well-organised, has amazing participation from the members and younger lot and offers a lot of food options at night. The next big draw is The Bengal Association Pujo in T Nagar. It is the oldest pujo in town and started in 1929. Right from Ponchomi (the day of anondo mela) to Dashimi, every onushthan is held with certain flair. They bring in a lot of popular artistes from across country for cultural programmes and serve delicious bhog. If you are going there, might as well check out the Madras Kali Bari pujo in West Mamblam. The place might be difficult to locate but once you reach there, you will love the atmosphere. And if you are living in the other end of the city, Dakshini Society pujo at Anna Nagar is a great choice. It is well known for fun nights with dandiya and DJs on nabami. They also have cooks flown in from Kolkata and have delicious food stalls serving maach, mishti, roll and more.
Nights are dedicated to the pujo nearest to your home
As you have had a darshan of the prominent Durga idols in the city during your pandal-hopping, it is time to settle down at the pandal closest to your home and watch the last round of cultural programme along with friends from locality. This is followed by the last round of adda, cha and of course, deciding on Plan of Action for the next day.