beyond Art

the wondrous aspects of our durga puja – world’s biggest public Art festival – have been evident in social customs, music, artisanry and even in nature. thus besides the brilliance of Art and artistry, nature greets sharodotsav with white clouds floating around the blue sky or the vast field of white kaash flower. moreover, the melodious sound of dhak and the traditional dhunuchi dance mesmerize everyone during the festivity.

durga puja special

durga puja, a festival at autumn, implies the connection between mother nature and mankind. the festival is correlated with clear blue sky, white fluffy clouds, bright sunshine, field full of kaash flower and shiuli flowers, idol worship in the beautiful nature is accompanied by the inevitable beats of dhak.

kaash flower
kaash is a perennial grass, though it looks like a flower which is why it is called ‘kaash phool (flower in bengali)’, growing up to three meters tall, and found in the terai-dooars grasslands across India, nepal, bangladesh and bhutan. in bengal, the grass typically grows on exposed silt plains of rivers created by retreating monsoon floods. which means they appear each year in september-october, durga puja season. it is perhaps owing to this that the beautiful silvery white strands of kaash have become so integrally associated with durga puja festivities. to the extent that very often, artists’ impressions of durga puja consist simply of a few silken stalks of kaash, and goddess durga’s face. the appearance of kaash phool signals a change in the weather.

in appearance, the dhak is a large cylindrical or barrel-shaped drum, in which the sound is produced by beating two wooden/ bamboo sticks against a membrane made of animal skin. the ‘dhaki’ or drummer usually suspends his instrument from one shoulder, though some place it on the ground for a heavier sound. as puja arrives, thousands of dhakis make their way to kolkata from the districts. many of them remain attached to the same puja for decades, through generations. not all are full-time musicians, but during durga puja, their only job is to welcome the goddess with their intoxicating beats. many of them adorn their dhaks with colourful covers and splendid feathers, and the sight and sound of a dhaki drumming up a frenzy while swaying to his own music is unforgettable. there are distinct dhak rhythm patterns for every ritual of durga puja, from waking the goddess up in the morning to her immersion in water at the end of four days.

dhunuchi nach
the dhunuchi dance is one of the most joyful and inclusive aspects of durga puja, performed in front of the goddess mostly by adults owing to the risks posed by burning hot coconut husks, but sometimes by children too, to the rhythm of the dhak. the dance begins at a sedate pace and gradually picks up speed as the dancers move faster and the dhak beats quicken. typically, a dhunuchi dance is performed at the end of the ‘arati’ (or aarti, from sanskrit ‘aratrika’ - the waving of earthen lamps before a deity or person as a mark of honour or welcome). while the standard practice is to carry a dhunuchi in one hand, many dancers will carry two, with some even holding a third in their mouths, or balancing it on their heads. needless to add, safety norms must be strictly maintained at all times it is difficult to describe the energy and vigour of a dhunuchi dance unless you witness it first hand. the smoke from the clay pots, the aroma of dhuno, and the general air of devotion blended with joy make it an irresistible part of the festivities.

sindur khela
vijaya/ bijoya dashami is the last day of durga puja, when devotees bid farewell to the goddess and the countdown begins to her arrival next year. as she goes back to her husband lord shiva, women apply sindur (traditionally worn in their hair by married hindu women) on her forehead and feet and offer sweets to her. they then smear each others’ faces with sindur to invoke a long life for their husbands. the exact origin of the custom is unclear, but the initial idea seems to have been for women to bond with each other.

four days of festivities end on the fifth day with vijaya/ bijoya dashami, the day on which durga is said to have achieved vijay (victory) over demon king mahishasura. idols of the goddess and her children are immersed in water, signalling her departure for mount kailash, the mythical abode of the gods where she lives with her husband lord shiva. early evening is considered the most suitable for bisarjan, though it may continue late into the night. In kolkata, idols are usually gently pushed into the river hooghly, while in many other parts of bengal, they are taken out onto the river in the middle of a pair of boats tied together, which slowly part so that the idols can drop into the water. the immersion processions arrive on foot and in vehicles, accompanied by dhak (drum) beats and dancing, though a pall of sadness descends as durga and her children lakhsmi, saraswati, kartik and ganesh go on their way. in bengal, bisarjan is preceded by sindur khela, when women smear each other with vermillion, and followed by ‘kolakuli’, where men ritually hug each other three times.younger people touch an elder’s feet seeking blessings, followed by kolakuli if both parties are men.

near by tourism

kolkata, the capital city of west bengal is geographically privileged to have sea, mountain, forest, delta all around it. moreover it has the tradition, heritage and history widespread and evident in many of its tour spots. within the city nearby places, mentionable tourist spots are indian museum, victoria memorial, kalighat and dakhineswar temple, zoological and botanical gardens and so on. the list of little far off worth seeing places is mentioned here :

globally renowned as the queen of the hills, darjeeling lies in the northernmost region of west bengal and is one of the state’s most visited destinations, offering a view of mount kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, and the legendary darjeeling tea, not to mention the darjeeling-himalayan railway, a UNESCO World heritage site. set up in the 19th century as a summer retreat for the british, darjeeling was home to tenzing norgay, one of the first two humans to summit mount everest. its british-era schools still attract students from india and abroad.tourism is one of the pillars of the local economy, and darjeeling’s unique and diverse cultural influences have given birth to stunning christian churches, buddhist monasteries, and hindu temples. the cultural mix is also reflected in the local cuisine, clothes, and languages, notable draws include tiger hill, padmaja naidu zoological park, himalayan mountaineering institute, tibetan refugee self-help centre, and various tea gardens.

one of the world’s wonders, sundarban is the biggest delta and world’s largest mangrove forests. being the UNESCO’s heritage site it spans over 10,000 km across west bengal and bangladesh. home of the royal bengal tiger, sundarban is also the home to huge number of birds, fish, mammal and reptile species. nature with all its beauty and calamity is its core attraction.

internationally famous for rabindranath tagore and his viswabharati university, shantiniketan is a beautiful tourist spot also for its natural beauty and the inherent culture widespread all around. birbhum, the district where it is in, is itself a unique district of west bengal, nature and soilwise. tagore with all his creations, working places and memories is present all our shantiniketan.

kolkata, the city of joy is also known as the cultural capital of india. with all its hassels and bustles, activity and festivity, acceptance and refusal, kolkata is the unique city of character. here there are coffee house & tea stalls, kumortuli & new market, metro rail & eden garden, victoria memorial & kalighat temple, indian meuseum and riverside food stalls .above all the interesting and considerate people that add colour to the city.

purulia is known for its rocky yet green landscapes, rugged hills, forests, flowers and ancient structures and temples. the district’s culture is infused with ethnicity and the existence of different tribal communities. the charms of ayodhya hills, turga falls and many more spots attract tourists all along.

famous for its Art, architecture and heritage ,bishnupur is the ancient temple town of west bengal. temples made of terracotta – a typical and unique construction material – have made bishnupur a heritage site. beside temples terracotta pottery, artefacts, jewellery, dokra metalcraft and baluchari saree are of immense attraction. bishnupur has its own famous musical heritage too.

the last capital of independent bengal, murshidabad is the most famous historical city and district of west Bengal situated on the banks of hoogly. murshidabad treasures history and heritage althrough. monuments, palaces, gardens, museum and the ambience still carry the fragrance of the past being the witness of history.