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Durga Puja in Calcutta

Durga Puja in Calcutta [Illustration by Shiju George] Durga Puja is the biggest festival in Bengal. We celebrate this puja very nicely in our city. We look forward to Durga Puja every year It is a joyous occasion for all of us. In Calcutta, Durga Puja is a wonderful celebration. Being vacation time, we enjoy ourselves very much. Durga Puja usually lasts for five days. It begins with ‘Shashti’ and ends with “Dashami”....

Deepavali: Festival of Lights

Deepavali – or Diwali – as is commonly uttered – literally means rows of lamps. These lamps light up houses all over the country, but for different reasons. In West Bengal, it is time to worship Kali, the goddess with the fearsome strength, and in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh it is time to remember Dhanvantari, the divine physician. To some, the lights are a reminder of the return of Rama to his home after 16 years of exile....

The Making of the Goddess

The Making of the Goddess

On an ordinary day, the names Kumartuli and Krishnanagar would not make much of a difference to a Bengali. But come Durga Puja, and these two ordinary towns near Calcutta, become the focus of great attention. For it is here that the clay idols of Durga are made. This age-old tradition of clay sculpture has been preserved by the community of Pals. Months before the Puja, clay artisans start to breathe life into the images of Durga....

Satyajit Ray

One of India’s most distinguished film directors Satyajit Ray, was born on May 2, 1921 in West Bengal. Ray’s films are of universal interest despite the fact that most of his films were made in Bengali. His films are essentially about those things that make up the human race – relationships, emotions, struggle, conflicts, joys and sorrows. Satyajit Ray, the master story teller, has left cinematic heritage that belongs as much to India as to the world....

Here Comes Pujo!

Durga Puja is the most important festival for the people of West Bengal, the Eastern Indian state that has been home to three Nobel Laureates – Rabindranath Tagore, Amartya Sen, and Mother Teresa – as well as Oscar awardee Satyajit Ray. Durga Puja, or Pujo as it is usually referred to, ushers in a sense of well-being, with Diwali following close on its heels. The timing is just right: the sweltering heat, and the post-monsoon humidity gives way to Sharat or autumn....

Footprints on Earth

Footprints on Earth

Have you ever been to a national park? If so, you must have tried to trace or locate a wild animal by trying to see its footprints on the soil. For example, people who go to Jim Corbett National Park, in Uttar Pradesh, India, spend most of their time looking for tigers. They do so by trying to look for its pug marks on the soil. If they find even one, they return happy and spin tall tales of adventure to their friends, about “How I saw a tiger”....

This Time Teachers are the Students

This Time Teachers are the Students

August 12: About 55,000 teachers in West Bengal are going back to school. They are going to be taught English so that they can teach the language to their students. The West Bengal government has realised that most primary school teachers in the state do not know the ABC of English. Rather, they don’t remember. The reason is not hard to find. For 20 years the government had banned the teaching of English at the primary level....

The Master of  'Mithaai'

The Master of 'Mithaai'

It was the summer of 1997. I was travelling through the villages of West Bengal in search of the famed folk musicians of Bengal. They were simple people who journeyed from village to village, singing and performing. But something happened along the way… The afternoon sun was at its height when I reached Kankalitala, in the northwestern part of West Bengal. The temple in Kankalitala is very popular among the worshippers of Goddess Kali. The temple is located right next to a river called Kopai, a beautiful...

Tiger Target

Tiger Target

October 16: A few months ago, the accidental death of a dozen Royal Bengal tigers, at an Orissa zoo, shocked the nation. The news made headlines and gradually got relegated to the inside pages of newspapers before vanishing altogether. Yes, public memory is notoriously short and people eventually forgot about the whole episode. Now, yet another tiger death has shaken us out of our apathy. The gruesome slaughter of a young Bengal Tiger (Saki) at the Hyderabad zoo has once again highlighted the utter negligence on the part of zoo officials....

Street Cricket in Calcutta: Out, Caught!

Street Cricket in Calcutta: Out, Caught!

July 1: Calcutta. A city without playgrounds. But still, a city that has learnt to have fun with what there is – the streets. And street or ‘para’ cricket is one of those inventions. Cricket during the day, under the sun, and cricket under streetlights and floodlights once the sun is down. Cricket played to the cheers of the neighbourhood — the family, the pet, the neighbours, their domestic helps — in short, all. This is nothing unusual for Indians who have always spent a large part of their lives outdoors, sitting on a ‘charpai’ or stringed cot under a tree or playing games according to the season, be it ‘gulli danda’ in summer or throw a stick in mud and let it hold, during the rain....

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