The Durga Puja spirit picked up on Wednesday -- the "Maha Saptami" day -- as attired in their best, people visited Puja marquees to pray to the Goddess and participate in the festivities across West Bengal.The day started with morning prayers, as the rituals commenced with "Pran Pratistha" where the deity was symbolically endowed with life and invoked in a group of nine plants bunched together -- the "Navapatrika".
The "Kola Bou", a tender banana plant symbolising a bride, was given a river bath amidst drumbeat, wrapped in a sari and placed next to the idol of Ganesha.Through "Pran Pratistha", the spirit of Durga as a warrior goddess is awakened, and she starts her battle against the manifestation of all evil in the form of Mahishasura -- the demon king -- in the form of a buffalo.In accordance with custom, fasting devotees offered flowers to the Goddess in obeisance and later feasted on an array of delicacies.Bells chimed, cymbals clanged and the invigorating beats of "dhaak" (drums) set the mood for celebrations. This is also the time when people meet friends and family, relish the array of street food being sold since morning in makeshift stalls.Neither a brief spell of rain in some parts of Bengal nor a rain forecast in the evening dampens the spirits.More than 3,500 community pujas have been organised in Kolkata and suburbs, with diverse themes, lighting and decorations wooing the revellers.The five-day carnival is the biggest annual event in this part of the world as roads are choked with human traffic throughout the day and night.People from the metropolis, Bengal villages, other parts of India as also various countries walk shoulder to shoulder in gay abandon, paying beisance to the goddess and watching the colossal marquees -- many of them beautiful works of art -- on Maha Saptami (the seventh lunar day).Amid the passion to beat one another and the healthy competition, marquees both big and small, are there to captivate spectators.Sreebhumi Sporting club in east Kolkata created a marquee on the theme of Bahubali while Jagat Mukherjee Park Sovabazar becomes a puja destination with the theme of "Live Submarine".In fact, demonetisation and the pain of common people was the theme of many puja organisers.People flooded the innovative marquees with family in tow. Former India captain and CAB President Sourav Ganguly, donning a yellow traditional kurta, also visited the marquees."This is my first pandal visit this year and I have come with my full family. Earlier I just went to Kumartuli (marquee) of a fellow Cricket Association of Bengal member. We have a big puja at our house also," he said.Wishing the best to everyone for the festival, he said: "Nothing is bigger than this festival, so everyone is out on the street."The pujas held at the houses of erstwhile "zamindar" (landowner) families of Hatkhola's Duttas, the Devs of Shovabazar in north Kolkata and Mullicks of south Kolkata's Bhowanipore also drew a steady stream of onlookers.Meawhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on her Facebook page said Biswa Bangla Sharad Samman 2017, would be conferred on 70 puja committees of the city and adjoining areas."Biswa Bangla Sharad Samman 2017, instituted by our government in 2013 in recognition of outstanding works of creativity, aesthetics, management and branding have been announced and will be conferred on 70 pujo committees of Kolkata and adjoining areas on October, 12, 2017..." she said.Traditional pujas usually have medium-sized idols within one frame ("ek chala") and are decorated tastefully with "daker saaj" made from the pith of a plant, also called shoal.According to the Hindu mythology, festivities and prayers begin with the symbolic arrival of the Goddess on earth on the sixth day of the first quarter of the moon, and ends on Dashami or the 10th day, which is celebrated across the country as Dussehra.Traditionally, every pandal has an idol of Goddess Durga depicting her as slaying the demon Mahishasura. She is shown astride a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her arms.