Festivals in Kolkata That You Must Experience!

Kolkata is a colourful city in terms of everything and Bengalis just need one reason or another to celebrate. This fact of the region is and has been being glorified in various aspects of the print and cinematic media. The festive fervour is perhaps one of the many things that highlight Kolkata, making it a place one of its kind. The beautiful township is known for its many festivals which keep its residents busy throughout the year. The entire atmosphere is painted completely different during the festivals and there is a lot of commotion and rush all around.  There are a plethora of festivals that take place throughout the year, like Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja etc. There are also a lot of lesser-known ones which are popular in the Bengal region and which assume different forms in different regions of the country and we will try to make you aware of those.

So here we go on with the list of festivals of Kolkata that take place throughout the year:

1. Saraswati Puja

(Usually in the months of January or February)

Perhaps one of the unique celebrations of Kolkata is the day celebrating the Homecoming of the Hindu Goddess of Learning, Goddess Saraswati. This is usually celebrated on the fifth day of Hindu month of Magha, known as Vasant Panchami in Northern parts of the country and Saraswati Puja in West Bengal predominately. This day is dedicated to the Goddess as a day when all the study related things should have an auspicious beginning. In Kolkata people consider this day to be very fortunate for their children to start writing for the first time. This day is also marked by small girls wearing colourful saris and going out on the streets to visit the richly decorated pandals of Goddess Saraswati.
Festivals In Kolkata
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2. Basanti Durga Puja

(Spring season- mostly during March)

Although the more known celebration of the Homecoming of Goddess Durga is during the month of September- October, scriptures have it that originally the Puja was performed in the spring season. This form of worship of Goddess Durga was the only time that the Goddess was called upon the earth but nowadays the ?Shardiya Durga Puja ? has become more famous. But the Basanti Durga Puja is still very famous in the Kolkata region. Considering it to be a miniature Durga Puja, the city comes alive with the sound of conch shells and brightly lit pandals with extensively decorated idols of the Goddess and people wearing colourful attires and dancing to the beat of 'dhakis'.

Festivals In Kolkata
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3. Poila Boishakh

(Usually on the 14th or 15th of April)

Poila Boishakh or the first day of Baisakh is the first day of a Bengali calendar year. The day is often known as Bengali New Year. This day marks the beginning of a new year for a Bengali household and thus calls for a celebration. People make extensive preparations for this day, buying new clothes, preparing extensive dishes at home and most importantly offering prayers to Gods and Goddesses. This day is very special for the Bengalis. On this day the traders start their new accounting books, the ceremony is commonly known as 'Hal Khata'.

Festivals In Kolkata
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4. Jamai Shoshti

(Usually in the months of May or June) 

This beautiful commemoration celebrates the complicated but underrated relationship between a mother in law and her son in law. This is a day to bring the warmth back in the relationships and proves to be yet another reason to celebrate the blessing that is life. On this special day, the son in law visits his in-laws home where a grand party is organized for him, containing people from the household or more acquaintances as they want to mark the occasion. The mother in law cooks extensive and mouth-watering dishes for her son in law and no celebration in the Bengali household can be complete without food. The day is also marked with giving gifts to the son in law from his in-laws too and also being blessed by them with having a long and prosperous life ahead.

Festivals In Kolkata
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5. Durga Puja

(September to October)

Perhaps one of the grandest festivals of the state, Durga Puja of Kolkata is famous worldwide for the huge celebrations and the faith that comes with the victory of Good over Evil. The festival is a massive celebration in the name of Goddess Durga who defeated the shape-shifting demon Mahisasura after a ten-day battle. The day is known as Vijay Dashmi. The celebrations are truly on a different level altogether with roads being ten times more crowded than the usual (mind you the usual crowd there is unusually large!)with people going out for their last minute shopping sessions and for sightseeing the extensive pandals that flock the city. The city sure has some of the best artistically made pandals which draw attention from all around the world. The city loses itself during the 10 days of celebration.
Festivals In Kolkata
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6. Lakshmi Puja

(A week after Vijay Dashmi)

Lakshmi Puja is the celebration of the homecoming for the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Goddess Lakshmi. The festival is entirely restricted to the Bengalis since Hindus apart from Bengalis do this Puja during Diwali- the festival of lights. This is usually done at home by a priest or by own and offerings are made to Goddess Lakshmi and prayers are made to bring wealth and prosperity to their homes.
 
Festivals In Kolkata
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7. Kali Puja

(Late October or November)

Celebrated nearly twenty days after Durga Puja this festival is perhaps the other largest festival of Kolkata apart from Durga Puja. Celebrated in the honour of Goddess Kali, this festival is marked by chanting mantras during nighttime which goes up till dawn. The Deity is adorned with garlands of hibiscuses and offered sweets, rice and lentils although animal sacrifices are also made at a few places, now has been greatly reduced. The festival is celebrated when the rest of the country celebrates Diwali- the festival of lights.
 
Festivals In Kolkata
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8. Bhai Phota

(Around November)

This festival is celebrated in Kolkata as a substitute for the Hindu Raksha Bandhan although it is somewhat different. In this, the sister puts a 'tika' on the forehead of her brother while muttering incantations and then feeds him, sweets. The sister prays for the long life of her brother and also that he finds the strength to fight wrongdoings. This is the Bengali version of celebration cherishes the bond between a brother and sister.

Festivals In Kolkata
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9. Dover Lane Music Festival
(In the month of January)

Dover Lane Music Festival is a unique Indian classical music festival that is held annually in the Nazrul Mancha auditorium in Kolkata. The three day long festival is lit from dawn to dusk and invites prominent personalities of classical music from all over the world. Aside from the music stalwarts and high end personalities, young artists and blooming musicians are also encouraged to perform in the festival. Over the years, the festival has gained tremendous popularity and has also earned itself a lot of sponsors. Aside from the cultural music, you can also enjoy the snacks and refreshments from the stalls standing outside.
Dover Lane Music Festival
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10. Calcutta Book Fair


(Usually in the months of January and February)

Now known as the International Kolkata Book Fair, Calcutta Book Fair was first held in Kolkata in 1976 and has become a rage lately, especially among book lovers. Believed to be the largest fair, not just in town but also in all of Asia, the fair is mostly held for the general public instead of the distributors and retailers. With a total footfall of around 2 million visitors, the book fair also has candy floss vendors, pinickers, singers, songwriters and tid bit sellers etc., present in the event. The fair is held on a large scale and has become synonymous with the culture of Kolkata. It won’t be surprising to find people who visit the fair everyday till it’s duration.
Calcutta Book Fair
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11. Kolkata International Cinema Festival

(Held in mid-November for 7 days)

Kolkata International Cinema Festival is a week long cultural film festival organised in Kolkata. The festival showcases a range of Indian and International films, and is considered to be one of the most loved and most awaited festivals in town, especially by cinema lovers. Organized by West Bengal Film Centre under the West Bengal Government, the festival was founded in 1995 and has been growing ever since. It is one of the most grand affairs in town and is the second oldest international film festival in India. Besides, it features a fine range of documentaries, short films, art films and regional films as well as contemporary films.

Kolkata International Cinema Festival
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12. National Theatre Festival

(Usually held in the month of December)

National Theatre Festival, also known as Nandikar’s National Theatre Festival is an annual theatre festival held in the city of Kolkata inside the Academy of Fine Arts. The festival was started in 1984 by a theatre group called the Nandikar’s. But now is an important cultural celebration in town. The festival also features and showcases contemporary and avant garde performances from theatre troupes in India and from other countries like the United States, Sweden, Nepal, Switzerland, Pakistan, and Bangladesh etc. In addition to that, you can also attend workshops and exhibitions that are conducted on the venue itself.

National Theatre Festival
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13. International History & Heritage Exhibition

(Usually held in the month of February)

International History & Heritage Exhibition is an annual event organized by the museum - Sabarna Sangrahashala located in Saptarshi Bhawan in Kolkata. The four day programme is based on different themes and showcases important relics and resources from history. There is also a section where one neighbouring country (to India) is selected and in depth detail and information is shared about its history, traditions and cultural ties with India. Besides, there are several talk shows, quizzes and cultural programmes going on simultaneously, in which you can participate.

International History and Heritage Exhibition
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These are some of the festivals which Kolkata is really famous for and these help in realizing the importance and significance of festivals in a Bengali household. Kolkata is full of life and gusto. The mere numbers of celebrations that take place throughout the year are a mere testament to the everlasting and undying spirit of the people around here. It is indeed a remarkable place to be in!

This post was published by Anindita Pal

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