Thousands out on streets as Durga Puja begins in Bengal
With the azure sky belying the party-pooping rain forecast of the met office, people walked shoulder to shoulder soaking in the fun and gaiety as a spruced-up Kolkata was resplendent under lakhs of kilowatts of bright lights, twinklers and pompous marques.
The five-day festival - the biggest in eastern India - is being celebrated across the state, with every city, small town and village joining in the merriment.
The community pujas in the city number around 2,700 this year, while thousands more have been organised in the districts.
Shashthi - the sixth day of the lunar calendar - also marked the beginning of the puja rituals.
Kalparamvo (the beginning of the Pujas), Bodhan (the consecration of Ma Durga's idol), Amantran (inviting the Goddess) and Adhivas (sanctifying the stay of the Goddess in the exact spot where the puja is being held) - were performed in community puja marquees and households where the deity is being worshipped with all fervour.
According to the Ramayana, before attacking Lanka in search of his wife Sita, Lord Rama had performed Durga Puja in autumn - a time when the gods sleep, according to the Hindu religious texts.
So Lord Rama had to first wake up the Goddess prematurely, and as such the awakening in the autumnal festival is called "Akal (untimely) Bodhan" of the goddess.
However, mythology also states that the Puja celebrates the annual descent of Goddess Durga, the slayer of the demon Mahishashur, accompanied by her four children - Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati - on earth to visit her parents.
The goddess, astride a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her ten hands, stays for four days to eradicate all evil from the earth before returning to her husband Lord Shiva at Kailash on Dashmi.
The festival will conclude Monday, when the idols would be immersed by teary eyed devotees in the rivers, lakes and ponds.
A large number of people also thronged the marquee at south Kolkata's Singhi Park, which resembles the famous 16th century Govind Dev (Govindaji) temple in Vrindavan - a confluence of Hindu, Muslim and European architecture.
Built over a 55 feet super structure, the marquee was a big draw for the intricate designs created out thermocol & plywood.