Today is Mahashashthi, typically the ‘finishing touches’ day! On this day all the preparations and planning of the last few weeks fall into place. The pandal is readied with decorations, the lighting is tested for its psychedelic effects, the stage for cultural programmes is evened out and carpeted to host big and small artists, the food stalls are stocked up with provisions and finally the idol is placed with utmost care into the marquee for the official unveiling of the face (Bodhan) amidst chanting of holy mantras. By evening today, all the pandals will be ready to host you in their shiny new avatars! So don your new clothes, and hop on to the pandal-hopping bandwagon!
At the Shakti Samanta Puja in Khar, stalls by Taste of Kolkata and Annapurna Caterers were already set-up last night when I went for a quick look-see. The stall owners, returning every year for the last 15 years, are eagerly waiting to dish out Fish Fry, Mutton Kosha, Mughlai Paratha and such other delicious delicacies of Bengal, along with chilled bottles of cold drinks to visitors.
After you have had a look at the Swami Vivekananda themed pandal, and tasted some of the food from the stalls, stop by at the corner of 14th and Hinduja Road for a beautifully vibrant depiction of the Goddess in a small pandal. About 10 minutes from here is the Ramakrishna Math Durga Puja, which has a peaceful and quiet ambience with some lovely devotional singing performed live after sunset.
This time the Mukherjee Bari Puja, fronted by Rani Mukherjee and family, has shifted out of the Juhu Garden area and moved to sprawling Tulip Star Hotel Juhu, where a Belur Math themed pandal and numerous food stalls await the thousands of devotees and star-struck visitors. The crowd was already building up last night when I peeped in, and the Pujas hadn’t even begun! This evening the family members are reportedly putting up a performance. If you miss that, try and make it to the Bhog tomorrow afternoon when Rani Mukherjee and Kajol themselves serve food to the devotees at a sit-down community meal.
And for dinner head to Bhojohori Manna where there is a grand set thali on offer everyday of the Puja with fabulous combinations of some of the best traditional Bengali food (check out grand menu here!)
More food, entertainment and an inside look at the ‘Saptami’ pushpanjali tomorrow…