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.