India has welcomed Goddess Durga! This year Durga Puja festivities began on 26th September (Shashti) and will end on 30th September (Vijaya Dashmi). The Durga Puja festival marks the battle of Goddess Durga with the powerful buffalo demon Mahishasura, and her emerging victorious over evil. Thus, the festival epitomizes the victory of Good over Evil, but is also a harvest festival that marks the goddess as a motherly power behind life and creation.

More than just a five day-long carnival, preparation begins months in advance from setting up pandals, preparing various cultural activities like poetry recitation, singing, dancing, painting competitions to the simple joy of purchasing new clothes.  Beautifully decorated clay idols of Goddess Durga, Saraswati, Laxmi, Kartik and Ganesh are unveiled to the devotees and spectators on the 5th(Panchami) or 6th day(Shashti). On the 5th day, many pandals arrange ‘Ananda Mela’, which is a tradition of local women sharing their culinary specialties the evening before the puja begins. From delicious chops, cutlets, bhajas (fritters) to sweets and other snacks, the celebration is fitting for food connoisseurs. If you call yourself a true foodie, make sure you manage to visit one of the Anand Mela celebrations.

On the Pooja days, devotees wake up early in the morning, and observe a fast until the Durga Anjali that takes place early in the morning, after which they break their fasts with fruits and sweets. Soon after cultural activities and programs kickstarts, comes the joy of pandal hopping. With so many beautiful pandals lined up across the city, several families try to make it a point to visit as many as possible. In the afternoon, the ritualistic bhog, comprising delicious khichdi, papad, mixed vegetable, tomato chutney, begun bhaja (eggplant fritters) are served, and of course the generous heaping of payesh and roshogolla. On the day of Ashtami, which is often considered to be the most important day of the pooja, the bhog also has special additions, most common being rice in place of khichdi, chana dal, a curry of paneer, mixed vegetables, begun bhaja, tomato chutney, papad, rajbhog and payesh.  These treats are sure to have you happily stuffed through the day. But the food does not stop there! The pandals are often lined with many food stalls, selling the best Kathi Rolls, kebabs, fried fish, biryani, noodles, cutlets, chops and various other savory and sweet snacks.