Kolkata, Oct 7: Notwithstanding intermittent showers, thousands of men, women and children, turned up in their best on the streets of the metropolis making rounds of the marquees as the five-day Durga Puja festival got off to a rousing start in West Bengal on Friday.
The short periods of drizzle during the day left parts of the city slushy, and forced revellers to run for cover, but once the showers stopped the party went on in full steam, with people soaking in the fun and gaiety.
In the evening, Kolkata seemed resplendent under lakhs of kilowatts of bright lights, twinklers and pompous marquees, as the young and old, the rich and the poor, the aristocrats and the plebeians walked shoulder to shoulder relishing the artistry and aesthetics of the community marquees.
Many of them were armed with mobile apps, printed guide maps and selfie-sticks,
'Sasthi' or 'Bodhan' -- the welcoming of the Durga idols -- signalled the start of the Puja, with the eastern metropolis welcoming the goddess with the beats of dhaak (drums) and aroma of incense.
The community pujas in the city number around 3,500 this year, while thousands more are observed in the towns and villages across West Bengal.
Chants of 'Jai Durga' and 'Bolo Durga Mai Ki Jai' reverberated across the state with every city, small town and village joining in the fervour.
The puja is usually a five-day event with Sasthi, and the subsequent four days - Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami - translating into frenzied pandal-hopping (visiting marquees) in new clothes, meeting friends and family and stuffing oneself with traditional delicacies.
Thousands of brightly dressed up youngsters gathered at Maddox Square in south Kolkata, a traditional meeting point during the Durga Puja, spending the day catching up with old friends, or striking up new relationships.
The marquee at Naktala Udayan Sangha, on the southern outskirts of the city, drew hundreds of people, who looked in awe at its empiric theme "objectless form".
The marquee has been conceived in two layers, the outer layer reflecting the mechanical world, and the inside layer - a world of mere vibrations depicting the goddess.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wished people on Sasthi via a Facebook post.
Sasthi - 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 zeal.
According to the epic 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 - to the 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 Earth before returning to her husband Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash on Dashami.