Finally my favourite time of the year is here – Durga Puja! I am not Bengali but I belong to the city which is the second most famous city in India for witnessing the grandeur of Durga Puja. Unfortunately for many years now I haven’t had the chance to be part of the Puja celebrations of Kolkata or Cuttack but if you think I have missed out on the fun, you are wrong. Durga Puja in Mumbai may not be as extravagant as the two main cities, but it totally manages to capture the authentic spirit of celebration and splendor of the festival.
Pandal hopping is almost like a tradition when it comes to Durga Puja and Bengalis, Oriyas and a lot of non east Indians also take this tradition very seriously during the five days of jazzy celebration that falls during the last days of Navratri. Here is my list of 10 Pandals you have to visit in Mumbai, when in Mumbai for the shankh, dhuan, bhog and many more things!
1. Shivaji Park, Dadar - Shivaji Park's Bengal Club Durga Pujo in Dadar West, Mumbai is one of the oldest puja pandals in the city. The area was declared silent zone some years back hence the puja is not as grand as people would expect but the escence of tradition hasn’t faded a bit. The programs are usually done in mid day and the food court is something every person would relish! There are also artisans from West Bengal selling handicrafts here. And if you are a photography enthusiast, do visit the area before the puja; almost all main Durga Pratimas of the city are made right opposite the park. These craftsmen toil for almost 3 months and make the grand murtis. Most of the craftsmen are from West Bengal and they also use the scared mud from Kumarthuli – Yes it is the authentic Durga Puja experience.
2. Lokhandwala Durgotsav – This Durga Pandal s one of the ostentatious pandals in the whole city. Organized by Abhijeet Bhattacharya and Times of India, this is the best place to see a number of stars humbled down by the power of Goddess Durga and rejoicing during Dhunochi Naach.
3. North Mumbai Sarbojanin Durga Puja – This one is organized by the Mukherjee Family. The venue is open to public 24X7 and a lot of celebrities come here to seek the blessings of the Devi. If you happen to go there early before the puja people flock in, you would see people like Rupali Ganguli with flowers and checking arrangements. (I went at 7:30 in the morning twice!) And when there, be sure to have the bhog and leave! The location was changed last year from Lions Ground, Santacruz to Tulip Star Hotel Santa Cruz.
4. Powai Bengali Welfare Association, Powai – This pandal has been known for its creative themes for years now. The Pujo Pandal is huge and witnesses the largest footfall. This pandal is specially known for its Dhunochi Naach Competition and the dhol beats that accompany every ceremony during the Puja. This Puja Pandal in Hiranandani is one not to be missed spot during Pandal Hopping.
5. Notunpolli Sarbojonin Durga Pujo (Bandra Durga Puja) – This is yet again an old Puja Pandal originally started by Shakti Samanta, this Pandal at Linking Road is more of a people’s pandal than star studded pandal, despite of its glorious past. You are a fan of folk or soulful music, this should be your adda. For past some years Actress Shushmita Sen has been a regular here and yet again the food is what makes this Pandal a must visit.
6. Vashi Sector 3 – New Mumbai Bengoli Association Durga Puja – This durga puja is comparatively new, but happens on a very grand scale. Their Pratima is the tallest in the city usually Last year they had gone all green with the celebrations with 22-feet high idol will be made out of straw, jute, bamboo and clay sourced from Kolkata. They have the most musical event too during the Puja. From bands to well known singers, you would find them there. So music fans, you know where to be this Durga Puja.
7. Ram Krishna Mission, Khar – This is the peaceful, authentic and totally dil se desi Durga Pandal. The Kumari Puja, where an eight year old girl decks up as goddess Durga on Ashtami and is worshiped happens only here. And afternoon bhog – this is the place to be! Location - Ramakrishna Mission Marg , 12th Road, Khar (W).
8. Thakur Village Durga Puja – This Puja Pandal is a foodie paradise and has the largest non Bengali visitors after the Balkanji Bari Pandal.
9. Gowalia Tank Pandal - The Bombay Durgabari Samiti, which organises Durga Puja at Gowalia Tank is the city’s oldest Puja Pandal, prefers being low-key as compared to other pandals in the city. With a footfall of about 3000 people on saptami and ashtami this is not even very extravagant but the Pandal prides itself on its homely feel. Unlike the other major Pandals of the city, here the food is strictly vegetarian and does not contain onion or garlic. Being in this Pandal is an experience in itself.
10.All the other small Pandals of the city! – Maa is everywhere and every place is as welcoming as you can think of during Durga Puja. So if you haven’t been part of Durga Puja celebrations yet, this year try and experience the divine aura, you surely would not be disappointed. The best time to visit a Durga Mandap is during Sandhi Puja, the auspicious time between Ashtami and Navami, which this year is on 2nd October 8:00 AM.
Happy Navratri to all and Happy Durga Puja.