If you’re someone who looks forward to pandal-hopping during Durga Puja, these sites will be nothing new to you.
Be warned, these places are crowded, loud and busy. Just be alert in general and be at the top of your game.
Now, this is one of the oldest – if not the oldest – pujas in the city. You may notice, here, that the Goddess looks a lot kinder and has this more wholesome and sweeter aura to her. You essentially get to witness a true Assamese interpretation of the Goddess over at this puja.
What put the Nayantara Club on the map as far as Durga Puja goes was their state-of-the-art, mechanical story-telling of the Goddess and her victory over evil. They briefly stopped pursing the mechanical route for a few years and instead focused on some more unique ideas – such as the evolution of mankind and picking places like China to derive inspiration from – but if sources are to be believed, it seems they will be reviving their old-school mechanical story-telling version once again this year.
This Puja is simply an arm’s length away from the Nayantara Club. You may have to do a little walking to beat traffic and get to the actual Pandal but it’s worth the burnt calories. They always have intricately designed and impactful pandals that house some of the most beautiful and serene iterations of the goddess. You can’t miss this one.
The pandal and protima at Rest Camp are a sight to behold. Other attractions there include a Fair that has several rides (a Ferris Wheel, amongst others) to lure children and small shops selling various different kinds of fast food.
Apart from a stunning protima, the Geetanagar Puja, more often than not, has a kid-friendly environment and themes. In the past, they’ve made Chota Bheem-inspired pandals as well as pandals made to resemble caves.
The puja at Latasil is another one of the older ones within the city. Amidst the large Latasil Field, there’s a pandal that follows their theme for the year which houses their painstakingly sculpted protima. There’s also a varied assortment of little stalls that sell food, cotton candy, toys and the like. Some of the themes they’ve used in previous years include a reclining Ganesh, a moving glimpse of the underwater world as well as a recreation of the celestial abode of Mount Kailash.
This is, by far, one of the most interesting Pujas in town. Their larger-than-life creations attract maddening crowds every year. They’ve made 60 feet tall versions of Lord Shiva as well as Lord Ganesh, which are always a marvel. You would need to be highly alert when you’re in this area as you walk along with throngs of people and you can be easily swept aside if you are to make a wrong move. Even if this place requires a lot of walking, you can rest assured that your pain will be worth it.
Rehabari always has interesting takes on the Goddess, which people look forward to year after year. On previous years, they had merged the ideology of Goddess Durga with Mother Nature to create a spectacle befitting the festival. Previously, they had also provided a satirical take on Old Age Homes wherein the Goddess and her children were living inside one.
Khubchand, in its heyday, attracted people like moths to a flame. However, people didn’t go for the grand pandals nor the beautiful Goddess. Instead, they went to look at the large sculpture of the Asura (The Demon) and poke fun at his comically large shoes and what not. Those were the good days – Khubchand, now, has a more sombre Puja and they seem to have disposed their big-old-demons claim to fame.
Interestingly, the Refinery has many small pujas taking place within its vicinity along with a bigger one that attracts all the buzz. The bigger one, in the past, made use of Kaziranga National Park as their attraction. Last year, they paid tribute to the cine-blockbuster Bahubali.
All the other little Pujas
If you’re someone who wants to avoid crowds at all costs, you need not go to these big-scale pujas to have fun. The smaller and more homely pujas can also be a whole lot of fun and are equally beautiful. Places like Maligaon, Uzan Bazaar, Beltola, Khanapara etc are all worth a visit.
At the end of the day, as long as you go to pay your respects to the Goddess, you’re golden.
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