There is a popular saying in Bengali – “Baaro Maase Taro Parbon”, meaning they have more festivals than they have months in a year. If we elaborate this, it stands as Bengalis celebrate more festivals than anyone else in India.
This cultural trait becomes Bengal’s own because West Bengal and specifically Kolkata had been a confluence of Indian culture for ages. When Kolkata was the capital of India it used to host global businesses. Then it was a good business hub before losing its glory to other Indian cities.
In my childhood I lived in Howrah the twin city of Kolkata. It was just opposite the Ganga river and we never felt away from the capital city. Being a confluence of different cultures, Kolkata is always known for its festivals. October and November being the festive months bring most cheer to Bengalis during these months.
Even though Durga Puja was our main festival, we also celebrated Kaali Puja and Diwali. Kali Puja and Diwali was always back to back. One day Kali Puja and next day Diwali was celebrated. Even today it is like that and so Bengalis have double maaja during these days.
In my childhood our festival season started one week before the Durga puja. With schools closed for more than one month we were only to celebrate the whole month with new clothes, good food, holidays and travel plans and a lot of crackers. Since we had small time businesses in the city we were always fortunate enough to get crackers at less price compared to my friends. That was a sense of pride for me, because I could buy more crackers for same money compared to my friends.
Normally Diwali used to be celebrated after one or two weeks of Durga Puja. Since Durga Puja was our main festival, Kali Puja and Diwali used to come to us as a bonus. Different parts of West Bengal started celebrating different pujas in grand manner. For example, while Durga puja was continued to be celebrated in most part of Bengal but in places like Barasat and Naihati Kali Puja became more prominent and were celebrated in grand manner.
For the organizers of those pujas it was very easy and cost effective that way. Kolkata and West Bengal spends a lot of money in creating the best art forms during these pujas. There is artistic form to be seen in everything, in idols, pandals, lights or even in the ambience. All these innovations needed involvement of artists from different parts of India and sometimes from other parts of the world. So all those organizers collaborated and the arts & crafts used during Durga puja started being reused in subsequent pujas giving all such pujas a touch of novelty.
This innovative idea by puja committees brought much needed joy to the youngstars like me as we could keep our pandal hopping on and see the best pandals for months together. Since I grew up in a joint family, I never had any dearth of people to move around. Also my relatives from other parts of West Bengal used to come to our house during these times and we used to go around the city. So those festival time used to be fun filled and without any home task. Since we studied in government schools we never used to have a lot of homework too. So Diwali time used to be only fun times.
We have never celebrated Diwali the way Marawadis or other North Indians celebrate. We only used to light diyas in our house and used to have Laxmi puja in the morning. Bursting crackers used to continue for three four days and those days used to be extra ordinary. The ban on noise crackers above 60 decibel took that fun away from us for many years and the use of crackers had reduced during that time. Recently again the ban is raised from 60 decibel to 90 decibel giving many young stars the much needed relief and ensuring fun.
I had to shift outside my home for over four years now. I really miss my childhood and our joint family days during each festival. I realize that one good effect that joint families had was their unlimited fun and strong support system. I live alone today. I can’t go home for every festival, neither can they come to my place. We have become like islands today, connected only through mobile phone and internet. The personal touch, the fun filled evenings with relatives went missing long back from my life.
I wish I could unite with my family like this every festive season –
This amazing video is from GharWaaliDiwali