New Delhi: It’s that time of the year when traffic comes to a standstill near colonies like Chittaranjan Park, Greater Kailash I & II, Safdarjung Enclave, around Ramlila Ground in Central Delhi and even parts of East Delhi, no matter what time of the day you’re driving.
For Delhiites, it’s Durga Puja month, celebrated by one and all. The Probashi Bengalis living in Delhi, however, take it to a whole new level. This year, the celebrations begin on October 18th.
I have spent 30 years celebrating Durga Pujo in Delhi and every year, my friends and I set one day from the five aside to visit the best pandals in the city. Now, some of you may have just moved to Delhi and might not be aware of the mammoth puja pandal venues. And those of you who’ve moved from Kolkata to the National Capital Region might be missing Pujo celebrations back home.
So here’s my list of top eight Durga Pujo venues that you must visit if you’re an enthusiast, or simply if you’re Bengali.
The puja celebration at Kashmere Gate has been happening since 1909. It is the oldest pandal in the city and is the perfect venue for those who cherish a more traditional celebration. For foodies, this place serves amazing biryani and mutton chaap (curry).
Location: Alipore Road, opposite Indraprastha College for Women in Civil Lines
Closest Metro Station: Civil Lines (Yellow Line)
2. Chittaranjan Park
There are a total of nine puja pandals in Delhi’s mini-Kolkata. But you can cover them all in just one evening. For Bengalis from West Bengal and elsewhere, this is the place to be during puja celebrations.
Be it authentic food, culture and traditions, language or even just the ambience, it will make you feel like you’re back home. Just a tip, bringing your car is a bad idea; traffic is a total buzzkill during this time.
Location: Near Greater Kailash I & II and Kalkaji
Closest Metro Station: Nehru Place (Violet Line)
3. Safdarjung Enclave
Next up is the Durga Puja organised by Matri Mandir Samiti in Safdarjung Enclave. This puja pandal is famous for creating replicas of popular Indian temples.
Their theme-based pandals attract thousands of devotees every year. In the previous years they had pandals reflecting Egyptian history and Ancient Bengali traditions.
Location: B-2 Block, Safdarjung Enclave
Closest Metro Station: Green Park and AIIMS
4. Arambagh Durga Puja
This is one of the big budget Durga Puja pandals in town.
In 2013, the Arambagh Durga Puja Samity celebrated its silver jubilee and spent close to Rs 1 crore, according to a source. This year too promises a new theme and celebrations on a grand scale.
Location: Panchkuian Road
Closest Metro Station: Ramakrishna Ashram
5. Minto Road
This is, again, one of the oldest puja pandals in the Capital. If you are a fan of bonedi (aristocratic) pujo, visit this pandal organised by the Minto Road Puja Samity.
Started in 1940, this pandal has maintained the true essence of Bengali culture and traditions even when the rest of the pandals in Delhi have fallen prey to commercialisation promoted by the corporate world.
Location: The cross section of Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg and Ahalya Bai Road
Closest Metro Station: Rajiv Chowk
6. Timarpur and Civil Lines
This pandal will be celebrating its 102th year this time. Popular for its artistic idols, this pandal also follows the pre-independence Bengali tradition of taking the deity to the place of immersion on a bullock cart.
Location: Government Residential Colony, Timarpur
Closest Metro Station: Vishwavidyalaya
7. New Delhi Kali Bari
Among all the puja celebrations in the Capital, this one is the most popular for its dhaaki (dholak) performances.
People from all over the country and around the globe come specifically to see the performances. These celebrations began in 1925.
Location: Mandir Marg, Janakpuri
Closest Metro Station: Janakpuri East
8. Kalibari, Mayur Vihar
There are many puja pandals in East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar and Patparganj, but the one at Kalibari, Mayur Vihar- Phase 1 is authentic in every way. From the rhythmic sound of dhaak (drums) to the evening aarti, divine feeling seeps into the inner soul of devotees.
Location: Pocket-2, Mayur Vihar Phase 1
Closest Metro Station: Mayur Vihar Phase 1
Now for some honourable mentions that didn’t make it to my list:
- Antaranga Durga Puja Samiti Mayur Vihar Extension
- Karol Bagh Durga Puja Samiti, Karol Bagh
- MB Road Durga Puja Samiti, Pushpa Vihar
- Sarbojanin Durga Puja Committee, Haus Khaz
- E-Block GK II Durga Puja, Uday Shankar Park
Source: The Quint