Ramakrishna Paramhansa, known as the Prophet of Modern Age and his wife and spiritual counterpart, Ma Sarada are known to bring renaissance to the religious life of the common men. With their simpl…
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Do you love shopping??? Are you busy surfing the online stores to get the best home décor for your new apartment or is it that you love the Bengali art and style. If answer to any of the above question is yes, the Kolkata Handicrafts Fair 2016 is your place. This fair is a celebration of Bengali culture as you find people from all districts gather here and exhibit the best crafts from their place. From the lavish silks of Murshidabad to the clay art of Krishna Nagar, you will be spoilt for choice here.
The fair caters to the need of all essential items of your daily life, be it furniture or apparels. The collection of wooden dining tables, bamboo baskets, sofas and chairs made from bamboo can completely change the look of your house. The jute bags, earrings made from natural products, hand stitched dress materials with unique designs and flowers made from paper and thermocol are both budget friendly and beautiful.
Another interesting part of the fair is you find artists painting and preparing the crafts just in front of you. Here you have the chance to speak with the maker of the product and buy it from him/ her; the charm of which is quite different from that when you get your product online or from a retail store.
Food is the heart of any Bengali fair and the Kolkata Handicrafts Fair 2016 is not an exception. From a wide range of tangy pickles to the famous sweets of Bardhaman,”Joynagar er Mowa,’ foodies have lot to explore here.
Hence make your winter afternoons picture perfect, soaking in the warm sun, roaming at the Milan Mela ground, picking up the gems of Bengali Handicrafts.
Location: Milan Mela, Near Science City
Till: 11th December’16
No Bengali can deny the fact that at least a part of his/ her life has been influenced by Rabindranath Tagore; popularly known as Kabi Guru. As the train chugs into the Bolpur station, you are in the land of laal maati (red soil), the dreamland of this great Indian poet and Noble laureate. There are three prime tourist destinations here; namely, Shantiniketan, Konkalitala and Sonajhuri.
Your trip begins at Shantiniketan, the place which witnessed the renaissance of Bengali literature, art and music. Shanti meaning peace and Niketan home, had been the dream come true for the poet. The quietness of the place beckoned the young heart of creative Rabi and he decided to shift here. Gradually the place became an open-air gallery of exquisite paintings, fine sculptures and classics. Visiting Shantiniketan will unravel the golden age of Bengali literature in front of you.
Ride next to Konkalitala, one of the 51 Shaktipeeths of Hinduism. Dedicated to Goddess Sati, this place is blissful.
Sonajhuri is a treasure island of Bengali folk dance and song. Tap your feet with the Santhal women at the beats of madol or enjoy the vibrancy of baul song and music, famous worldwide. This place also gives you a feel of a typical village market, haat; Birbhum is known for its leather handicrafts, bags, clay toys and apparels with unique prints and the haat is a shopper’s paradise. Last but not the least; relish authentic Bengali cuisines at complete Bengali ambience here.
Life demands some respite after a hectic week and now a relaxing weekend is just within your reach at Bolpur. Located at the Birbhum district of West Bengal this place is a complete package of fun, frolic and serenity.
How to Reach:
Bolpur is easily accessible via rail, road and airways. There are regular trains from all over West Bengal to the Bolpur Station. Both private and government (SBSTC) buses ply to the city on a regular basis. The Kolkata International Airport is the nearest airways to the place.
Rickshaws are easily available outside the railway station and the main bus stand. You may also book a cab through the hotel where you are staying.
Belur Math- The Abode of Peace
Belur Math has always been one of my favourite spots near Kolkata, where I love to spend at least a piece of my weekend. It is really awesome to be amidst a surreal environment, far from the honking horns and dust filled air of the metropolitan. If you also want to find out yourself, removing all the tension of daily life, just be at Belur Math.
As River Ganges flows through the heart of Kolkata, several shrines have developed at its bank to enhance the divinity of the place with the touch of the holy waters. Belur Math is another religious centre of India, located at the Howrah district of West Bengal. Established by Swami Vivekananda in 1898, this place is visited by people from all walks of life, just not for pilgrimage but also to experience some soulful moments, far from the maddening crowd of city life.
The 40 acres of sprawling land is dotted with several temples; dedicated to Lord Ramakrishna, Ma Sarada and Swami Vivekananda. There are monasteries for the disciples of the Ramakrishna Movement and a children’s home, known as Sister Nivedita Children’s Home. The main temple of the place worships Ramakrishna Paramhansa, this is the site where Swami Vivekananda worshipped the urns of Ramakrishna; it is said that Swami Vivekananda carried the urns on his shoulder to the place.
You can spend a whole day here, strolling through the green meadows, listening to the joyous chirps of birds or relaxing at the banks of River Ganges, listening to its ripples. You can also enjoy a pleasant boat ride over the river, which takes you to another popular pilgrimage of West Bengal, the Dakhineshwar Kali Temple. This is where Ramakrishna used to worship Ma Kali as a priest. There are boats at regular intervals till 8.00 pm in the evening which take you to and fro Belur Math and Dakhineshwar Temple.
Another attraction of the place is its museum. There are relics and paintings depicting various phases of life of Ramakrishn, Ma Sarada and Swami Vivekananda. The shopping arcade consists of photos of various Hindu gods and goddesses, books on the Ramakrishna Movement, preaches of various philosophers and story books based on Indian mythology.
Devotees gather here at afternoon to have the ‘bhog.’ This simple meal is just not a lunch with people but a way of life of love and togetherness. Last but not the least; the evening aarti rejuvenates you. The aarti starts at 6.00 pm in winter and 6.30 pm in summer. Devotees gather at the main temple to witness the aarti. The soulful music and melodious hymns sung by the monks; known as ‘Brahma Sangit,’ relieves you from all stress.
Are you looking for a different kind of Durga Puja celebration this year? Be at Belur Math. The Math is known for its unique Durga Puja rituals, which also includes the Kumari Puja. The Math also celebrates Saraswati Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Shivaratri, birthdays of Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Ma Sarada, Jesus Christ, Sri Krishna and Lord Chaitanya.
If you want to engage in some charitable work, Belur Math is one of the best places to do so. The Math is engaged in rehabilitation and relief work and also has its own charitable dispensary.
Hence take your time out this weekend to spend some time of solace at Belur Math.
An Escapade From The Hustles Of City Life At Deulti
Stressed and tired of the everyday city life? Escape the commotion this weekend at Deulti. A quaint destination, Deulti is just an hour and forty minutes drive from Kolkata. You can reach the place via local trains and Paskura local is one of the best options to travel to this little hamlet of peace and serenity.
There are a number of resorts at Deulti, one being the Nirala Resort. From premium private cottages to affordable rooms, the resort offers you different types of accomodation amidst lush green meadows. As you play around in the cool waters of the swimming pool of the resort with your loved ones, the layers of stress wash away.
Deulti also beckons you with its rich heritage. The great Bengali author, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay had spent much of his life here and his house is popularly known as Sarat Chandra Kuthi or Samtaber. The visiting hours of Samtaber is from 3 pm to 5 pm and you can explore the whole of this two storied Burmese styled house to get an insight into the simple living style of the ‘Katha Silpi.’
Last but not the least; bask in the surreal beauty of River Rupnarayan at Deulti. A walking distance from the residence of the writer, the riverside is a sunset point; as the sun bids goodbye to the day, the fusion of red and orange rays create a magical aura over the blue waters of River Rupnarayan.
Hence, inhale some fresh air this weekend far from the maddening crowd, at Deulti.
A rendezvous with books- Kolkata International Book Fair
Durga Puja is the biggest festival of Kolkata? Well, Kolkata International Book Fair is not far beyond, it is a festival for the City of Joy; whether you love books or not, Kolkata International Book Fair beckons all.
Kolkata International Book Fair is held every year during the last week of January and runs approximately for 10 days. From local book stalls to international book stores, you have a varied flavour of books here; United States, Costa Rica, Bangladesh and United Kingdom create a magnificent fiesta of books at the Milan Mela ground, Kolkata.
Kids never feel left out at Kolkata International Book Fair; they are the special guests of the fair. From the colourful comics to the happy mascots, kids learn to love books at Kolkata International Book Fair.
Are you an academician? Dive into the ocean of knowledge at the book stalls specially stuffed with books of science, history, art and technology. While the English and Bengali detective books are there to sharpen your brains, discover the thrill of jungles with Jim Corbett.
Kolkata International Book Fair is just not about book stalls, it is a get together of creativity; throughout the fair, several literary meets are arranged at the halls along with the little magazine counters, where you get to see and hear your favourite authors; who want to miss the golden opportunity to autograph their favourite book from their favourite author?
Now, Kolkatans love food and hence any fair without food joints are incomplete; Kolkata International Book Fair is not an exception. From tangy chaats to sumptuous lunch platters, from lip smacking ice creams to piping hot tea, you have all to set off the right mood for books.
Kolkata International Book Fair is a huge event not only for the city but people throughout Bengal gathers here to feel books. Hence to keep the momentum, numerous buses are arranged for accessibility while subways look into the safety of the booklovers.
Hence it can be fairly said, how popular may be e-books, we still love to bask in the fresh smell of book pages.
Kolkata Bidhan Nagar Mela- The Global Handicrafts Market
Have you just been to your neighbor’s house and fell in love with the Egyptian wall hanging? Well, now you need not visit Egypt or pay a high price online to get such exquisite handicrafts and wall hangings; just be at Bidhan Nagar handicrafts fair, popularly known as Bidhan Nagar Mela. Held every year during January, it runs almost a month and is a perfect New Year gift to the city.
Traders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey have gathered at the Bidhan Nagar Mela 2016. While the stock of delicious dry fruits of Afghanistan attracts food lovers to their stalls, the grace of the Turkish mosaic lamps beckons people passionate about art and craft. The stalls of Egypt are as varied as their culture. While the paintings and sculptures represent the rich culture of Egypt, the small pyramids and sets of Egyptian wine glass glitters under the afternoon sun.
If you are in love with saris, a visit to the stalls from Bangladesh is must. With their infinite stock of Dhakai Jamdani and silk, these stalls can be your excuse to start puja shopping! Get wonderful gift items at the handicraft stalls of Pakistan. From onyx marble showpieces to large marble statues, you will be spoilt for choices here.
Last but not the least; you have numerous Indian handicrafts to fulfill your shopping spree. From soft hand woven carpets to embroidered pashmina shawls and salwar suits, you cannot ignore the magic of Kashmiri handlooms. The magnificent jewelry designs of Kolkata, clay toys from Krishanagar and lip smacking pickles from Suri represent Bengal at the Bidhan Nagar MelaBengal.
Tired of shopping? Just sit and relax to enjoy cultural programmes organised everyday at the ground. The rides not only enhance the glamour of the fair but also are a fun place to the kids. Hence soak the warmth of winter sun filling your bags with precious antiques at Bidhan Nagar Mela.
Ramakrishna Paramhansa, known as the Prophet of Modern Age and his wife and spiritual counterpart, Ma Sarada are known to bring renaissance to the religious life of the common men. With their simplistic lifestyle and preaching in lucid language, these nineteenth century mystics rule the hearts of masses till date. Ramakrishna Mission runs on the preaching of Lord Ramakrishna and Ma Sarada and is engaged in various social services.
A pilgrimage to Kamarpukur
Kamarpukur is the birthplace of Lord Ramakrishna, located at the Hooghly district of West Bengal. Besides regular bus service, you can also reach the place via car.
As you approach the birthplace of the saint, you will come across several schools, guest houses and dispensaries constructed by Ramakrishna Mission for the upliftment of the locals. The guest houses are affordable, offering simple food and lodging. The best time to visit this place is during the ‘Kalpataru Utsav,’ which takes place every year during the first week of January; it is the celebration of the divine transformation of the Lord into a Kalpataru (magical tree) which has the power to grant all your good wishes.
The birthplace of Lord Ramakrishna is located within a complex, maintained by the Mission. The whole place is enveloped with peace and serenity; attain the evening aarti which is accompanied with melodious chants to rejuvenate your heart and soul. Among the other must visits are the ‘Haldar Pukur,’ the bathing ghat of the Lord and his family; the pond is also known as the ‘Choto Ganga,’ meaning the small Ganges.
Visit the ‘Pathshala,’ the village school where Ramakrishna Dev used to study. Just opposite the small school lies the Durga Temple of the Laha family, the then zamindars of Kamarpukur. The nearby Vishnu Mandir was the seat of Ramakrishna, (known as Gadadhar that time) for painting pictures of Goddess Kali, escaping from his school. The guides accompany you to these places narrating the remarkable incidents of Ramakrishna Dev that took place at Kamarpukur.
A blissful journey to Jairambati
Located just 6 kms from Kamarpukur is Jairambati, the birthplace of Sarada Devi. Jairambati is located at Kotulpur region of Bankura district. You can also be at Jairambati first and then at Kamarpukur, as there are lots of vans available at Jairambati which take you to Kamarpukur. Both these spots have safe parking facilities.
As you reach Jairambati, you get a glimpse of rustic village life of West Bengal. The thatched huts, the small ponds and the easy lifestyle of the locals enhance the beauty of your journey. Here also the birthplace and the house of Sarada Devi (which is a mud house with thatched roof) is looked after by the Mission. Prayers automatically come out of heart as you sit in front of the large serene statue of Ma Sarada. The whole complex is not only stunningly clean instead of having so many visitors day in and day out but is also impressive with bright, aromatic flowers.
Devotees do not miss to have ‘bhog’ here, a simple but delicious lunch of rice, vegetable curry, sweets and fruits. You have lot of souvenirs to buy here; be it the idols of Goddess Kali or rare photographs of Lord Ramakrishna and Ma Sarada. Do sip the steaming hot tea and savory sweets to get the real taste of Bengal.
Last but not the least; the visiting hours are stringent:
April to September:
6 am to 12.00 pm & 4 pm to 9 pm
October to March:
6.30 am to 11.30 am & 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm
Best Time to Visit: First Week of January which is the time for Kalpataru Utsav.
Hence enjoy a weekend where a different facet of spirituality evolved; be at Kamarpukur and Jairambati.
As Ma Durga visits her father’s home from Kailash, Durgapur, the city named after the Goddess, begins the celebrations. If you want to experience the real feel of Durga Puja without suffering from suffocation and crowd, visit Durgapur.
As the tiny ‘siuli’ blossoms to fall like droplets on the dew drenched grass and the green fields are blanketed by white ‘kash’ flowers, Durgapur wakes up to celebrate the largest festival of the Bengalis, Durga Puja. Durga Puja at this smart city means gorgeous idols of the Goddess, glittering puja pandals, colourful fairs and an occasion to relish delicious platters.
The complete city of Durgapur rejoices the festival of Durga Puja. Most of the puja done at this city are ‘barwari’ pujas, that is, pujas organized publicly by different residential areas, popularly known as ‘parar poojo’.
Durga Pujas at this city are also influenced by the trend of theme pujas and you will find spectacular puja pandals here, encircled with astounding scenic beauty. The local artists do not leave any stone unturned to transform the mere pandals into exquisite temples of worship; innovative, perfect and artistic.
The deities of Goddess Durga found at these puja pandals are epitome of elegance. Every idol is different from the other, depicting the mythological tales lying behind this festival. While some deities are in the form of tribal idols, others are the varied incarnations of the Goddess of Power.
If you want to meet the crowd of the city, visit the joyous fairs of Durgapur. Simplicity is beauty; this is the untold theme of the fairs of the Steel City. From the delicately designed handicrafts of West Bengal to the day to day home products, from the tinkling sound of glass bangles to the exciting rides, these fairs are a world in themselves.
Now, Indian festivals are incomplete without lip smacking cuisines and Durga Puja is not an exception. There are numerous food joints throughout the city where you can relish authentic Bengali to Mughali cuisines, from Chinese to Continental dishes. All the five days of the puja people out here forget about diets and calories and treat themselves with crunchy papri chats, spicy and steaming hot ‘ghoogni,’ delicious egg chicken rolls; gulping ‘puchkas’ and devouring on ‘malai’ ice creams marks the conclusion of a hearty feast.
Students and the working mass of Durgapur who spend most of the year outside the city, are seem flocking to their hometown to spend some time with their childhood pals, parents and loved ones. Hence, Durga Puja is just not another festival to the locals; it is a celebration of life overlooking all flaws of life.
Durga Puja is considered as one of the largest festivals in India. Be it West Bengal or any other part of India or world, Durga Puja has a special place in the hearts of Indians.
This festival is celebrated with great pomp and show at West Bengal. As the puffy clouds start floating at the autumn sky, milky white ‘kash’ flowers cover the green fields and the
aroma of dew drenched shiuli fill the air, nature announces the arrival of the Goddess, Devi Durga.
The Durga Puja that we celebrate at the month of September or October; is the puja the Lord Rama did prior to his fight with Ravana. Sasti, Saptami, Asthami, Navami and Dusherra are the five days when goddess Durga is worshipped at Bengal.
Durga Puja is just not the worship of the goddess of power; it is the divine joy of reunion of parents with their children, friends, sisters and brothers, who spent the whole year at an unknown land and return to their soil during the puja. Hence, if you peep at the interiors of any Bengali family during the puja, you will find groups of people chit chatting, forgetting the world; popularly known as ‘adda.’
With time, Durga Puja has also gained momentum and the concept of theme puja has given a different edge to it. As you enterany puja pandal, you will feel as if you are entering an historic site; most of the puja pandals now-a-days are replica of historic monuments, like Khajuraho temple, Konark temple and many more.
The colourful lighting enhances the beauty of the puja pandals and also portrays different facets of life. The puja committees spend lavishly on the idols and the pandals to be the best of the town; there are several prestigious awards given at the end of the puja to the best puja, pandals and lighting. Thus, the traditional Durga Puja has also not been able to avoid the sting of competition and rat race.
Shopping is an indispensable component of Durga Puja. Shopping starts much before the festival, as people of all ages start preparing themselves; everyone wants to greet Mother Durga in their best attire.
Last but not the least; Durga Puja is the best time to relish authentic Bengali cuisines. During this festive season, the day at a Bengali house starts with a lip smacking breakfast menu of piping hot luchi, aloo dum and rajbhog, the lunch and dinner is sumptuous with steaming hot rice or pulao, varied fish items and spicy mutton curry.
Bengalis are in love with street food and hence near every puja pandal you will surely find numerous food stalls, selling egg and chicken rolls, chaats and puchkas. Sweets have a special place is the hearts of the Bengalis and hence are a must in the festive season. Barfi, nariyal and besan ladoo, rasamalai, rasgullas are to name a few.
Durga Puja hence is just not a religious occasion, it is a time when people from all walks of life revive from the daily stresses and spend some moments of pure happiness and life.