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AP Photo/Manish Swarup
The mother goddess.

Pictures: India’s ten-armed goddess with piercing eyes

It is a homecoming like no other.

For almost a week every autumn, Kolkata worships, eats, dances and drinks in celebration of the Hindu goddess Durga’s return to her paternal home.

But Durga Puja—rather “pujo” as a Bengali will likely correct you—isn’t just a Hindu festival. From its rise during Bengal’s colonial era to its spread as a “sarbojanin” (community) celebration, eastern India’s most spectacular festival effortlessly cuts across divides religious, economic and often even political.

At the heart of it, nonetheless, is the mother goddess’s idol, carefully handcrafted by expert sculptors over many weeks. She is decorated, dressed, worshipped, photographed and adored during the festival.

Finally, she is lovingly immersed in the Ganga. Only to return again next autumn.

Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
An artisan in Kolkata sandpapers an idol of the Hindu goddess Durga before applying paint on it.
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
An artist adorns idols of the Hindu goddess Durga at a workshop in Kolkata.
AP Photo/Bikas Das
An artist paints an idol of Hindu goddess Durga at his studio in Kolkata.
AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh
An artist gives final touches to an idol of Durga in Allahabad.
AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh
An artist gives final touches to an idol of the Hindu goddess Durga in Allahabad.
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A man works on a pandal, next to the idol of Hindu goddess Durga, in Kolkata.
AP Photo/Bikas Das
Workers on a bamboo scaffold give finishing touches to a huge idol of Hindu goddess Durga at a worship venue in Kolkata.
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
The idol of Durga is being loaded onto a boat to transport it through the waters of river Ganga to a pandal in Kolkata.
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Devotees stand under an umbrella as the idols of Durga are being transported on boats through the waters of river Ganga during a rain shower in Kolkata.
Reuters/Jayanta Dey
An artist paints an idol of Durga at a workshop in Agartala.
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Priests perform prayers in front of a banana tree trunk as part of a ritual on the banks of the river Ganga during the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata.
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A Hindu priest offers sweets to Labnaya Bhattacharjee, a five-and-half-year-old girl dressed as a Kumari, at a pandal in Kolkata.
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A woman selling garlands of marigold flowers waits for customers at a wholesale flower market during the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata.
EPA/Piyal Adhikary
People visit a pandal, made with grass, mud and bamboo with the theme “protect our environment” on the first day of the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata.
EPA/Piyal Adhikary
Artists work on an installation made with wood, fibre, metal, bamboo and coloured paper, under the theme “save the girl child” by painter and sculptor Pradip Das, as part of the preparations of the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata.
EPA/Piyal Adhikary
Artists work inside a huge art installation made with fibre, metal, bamboo and colour paper by painter and sculptor Susanto Paul in Kolkata.
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