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FLORENCE     Florence –  the capital of the Tuscany region and the cradle of Renaissance   We opted for Flix Bus while traveling from Venice to Florence. The road journey takes about three and a half-hour. In Florence, it terminates at the rear end of Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station. One of Italy’s busiest stations, it got its name from Santa Maria Novella Church just across the plaza from the main entrance. We debarked at the station and refreshed ourselves at McDonald's before hiring a cab for our hotel. Florence, popularly known as ‘Firenze’ by the Italians, is located in central Italy. This dreamy city with a romantic name is the regional capital of the lovely Tuscany region.   Columbus Hotel, where we stayed, is located in Lugarno District. We always prefer to book our hotels through Booking.com as we always land up getting good hotels at good locations. Despite being a little away from the heart of the city and Santa Maria Novella station

Durga Puja in Delhi - October 2011

Durga Puja in Delhi 
আসছে  বছর আবার হবে              সবাই কে জানাই বিজয়ার  শুভেচ্ছা   ---- দূর্গা পূজা দিল্লি ২০১১ 

Will be back again next year ----------   Happy Bijoya   --Durga Pujas in Delhi 2011

Ma Durga's Agomoni   আগমনী      in Delhi

Kashmere Gate Durga Puja. This is the oldest Puja
in Delhi. Completed 101 years this year. The Puja is
in the premises of the oldest Bengali medium
secondary school in Delhi established way back
in 1899.

Sushant Lok Durga Puja, Gurgaon
CR Park Kali Bari Durga Puja, Delhi
purbachal   c r park durgapuja , delhi
বরণ  Baran at Sector 4 Durga Puja, Gurgaon
Kali Bari Durga Puja , Mandir Marg,
Connaught Place, Delhi
(one of the oldest pujas in Delhi)

Palam Vihar Durga Puja, Gurgaon

durga puja
daryagunj delhi

Sector 14 Durga Puja, Gurgaon

যাত্রা yatra - Durga Protima being taken 
for Bisarjan at Palam Vihar Gurgaon

The four days of দূর্গা পূজা Durga Puja are one of the most nostalgic moments in most Bengalis life. Religion,reunion,get togethers, cultural functions,festive moods - all seem to culminate those four days 
in a year. Rudraneil Sengupta aptly termed these four days as 'Carnival'. In his article 'The Carnival of Durga' published in Mint October 6 2011 he recounts some of his memorable moments and sentiments of Bengalis during Durga Pujas. 

The Carnival of Durga --- by Rudraneil Sengupta

I’ve been an atheist now for almost 15 years, so people I know are often surprised at my fervour for Durga Puja. That’s only because they are not entirely aware of what   exactly Durga Puja means for Bengalis. This four-day festival is not really about religion—it’s essentially a carnival, so it assumes whatever significance you want to assign to it. My memories of Durga Puja go back further than any other events in my life I can think of. I can remember sitting astride my grandfather’s shoulders while he walked from his house to the Puja venue at Harrison road in Kolkata. The tram line running parallel, passersby smiling up at me, grandfather’s long, sure, gait; his lean, tall, body held ramrod straight. I spent the best moments of my childhood years at our barir pujo (or ‘home puja’, organised by large, well-knit families, as opposed to the neighbourhood community-organised parar Pujo). It still happens, more than 130 years after it first started, at the Mitra Institution, an old Kolkata school housed in a traditional mansion with its massive open courtyard ringed on four sides by a three storied structure with many evenly spaced rooms on each floor. During the pujas, the empty rooms with their rows of benches turned from a school to a dream playground for us. The main activities for the Puja all happen in and around the ground floor courtyard, leaving the other three floors at the mercy of children. We took full advantage. We would run up and down the stairs, all around the balconies, in-out of the rooms playing all kinds of games: hide-and-seek, intense toy gun-battles, an evolved form of football that involved using the stairs as well, straightforward cricket along a long stretch of the balcony, and various other games whose English names I don’t know involving running, jumping, tagging, sliding, and hopping. I remember going off to sleep on one of the benches in an empty classroom after a tiring play-session, and waking up with the fading light of dusk slipping through the cracks of the green shuttered windows in perfect beams, and picking out the dance of the dust particles. And I’m looking at this gently swirling dance, and the faded green of the shutters, and the old bloated fan hanging from the ceiling, and I have no idea where I am, I’m puzzled, but I’m feeling so peaceful that I could go back to sleep again. Meeting my extended family with all the uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, granduncles and grandaunts, and other assorted members once every year was also brilliant. We would be showered with love and kindness, and great food, and entertaining stories, and even eclectic singing and acting performances. When we were young, every year we would get an older relative, usually aged between 18 and 25, to chaperone us around the various Pujas that happened around Mitra school. We would walk from Puja to Puja, small barir pujos and humongous parar pujos, and the highlight was always the College Square puja, a truly colossal affair next to a large public swimming pool close to Presidency College. When we were older, suddenly we were the chaperones, giving our younger relatives the thrill of a puja tour unsupervised by their parents. Every afternoon at our barir pujo, there would be a communal feast, or bhog, where we would serve as proud waiters, quickly moving from plate to plate with buckets of spicy Khichri, sweet chutney, eggplant and pumpkin fritters, super-crispy and super-thin potato chips, and on Nabami, even fragrant meat curry. When I grew older, I started dividing my loyalties between my parar pujo in south Kolkata, and my barir pujo. For those four days, as soon as you were 14-15, all parental restrictions were lifted. You could stay out all night provided you called once towards midnight to say you were with friends and will be late, you could eat whatever you wanted and were adequately funded for it, and you did not have to account for your movements. Obviously, a fantastic time for love and sex to bloom for teenagers (oh, and so many houses would be empty because the parents themselves would have left for lunch, dinner, pandal-hopping, etc). Obviously, copious amounts of underage drinking, and nice mellow doses of marijuana. Obviously crazy parties and insane eating binges. And all that excess burnt off with the incessant walking involved in pandal-hopping. For those who have never been to Cal for the Pujas, pandal-hopping is almost strictly a walking affair, since driving is impossible through the sea of humanity who are out enjoying themselves from sundown to sun up. Imagine Rio during the carnival and subtract the nudity, and that’s a bit like what Kolkata looks like during the four days of Puja. I had little interest in the religious aspects of the Puja, though I loved all the rituals in my barir pujo while growing up, and still do for it’s quiet, simple quality, and the heady mix of fragrances: incense sticks, burning ghee and coconut husks, flowers, damp walls. I also love the aesthetics of the idol, especially the traditional one, with its paan-shaped faces; large, tear drop-shaped serene eyes, thick lips, and the muscular and anatomically correct but green-skinned asura. Whoever thought of changing the colour of the asura from black to green was one enlightened soul. But what I love most is the sound of the dhak. Dhakis are the most incredibly talented percussionists, able to pull off mind-boggling polyrhythms and syncopations, blending an awesome variety of beats and rhythms, and coaxing subtle, nuanced tonalities from their drums. Hear and watch a group of dhakis shifting seamlessly from one rhythm to another and you’ll know what I mean. There’s always one day, usually on Nabami , when the dhakis get very drunk before playing. On this day, they will dance unsteadily, and play like they are truly possessed. Their beats will get more and more complex, and increasingly evocative. When they play a slow rhythm, you feel hypnotised. When they step up the tempo, you feel like going into a frenzy of dance. They can speed up a rhythm till their hands blur, till your brain goes into shock, but still not miss a beat. And you realise suddenly how easily they are manipulating you with their cadence, how they are taking over all your senses, and pushing them into a frighteningly beautiful and uninhibited place. It is the most spiritual feeling in the world, and you don’t need religion to get it.


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