Kolkata: Not withstanding the ongoing India-Pakistan border tension and the threat of rain gods playing spoilsport, festive fervour has gripped the eastern metropolis Kolkata for the biggest five-day socio-cultural carnival of Bengalis that comes with the annual religious observance, the Durga Puja, that begins on Friday.
From the time-honoured elite family celebrations to the boisterous theme Durga Pujas in grand marquees, West Bengal is set to plunge into festivities, merriment and religiosity.
It is that time of the year when even newspapers are shut down and roads choked with human traffic throughout the day and night.
As legions of pandal-hoppers troop in to the city from the suburbs, the rest of India and from across the globe, the marquees that have sprung up left, right and centre, gear up with some last spot of touching-up, to showcase remarkable creativity and give some stiff competition to one another.
Not far behind are the revellers, who in consonance with the gaiety, are all decked up to savour the food, fashion and festivity.
Festooned with lights, LED screens and clay figures adorning entrances to lanes, the city is dressed like a bride to welcome its patron goddess. Much to the chagrin of the organisers, this time around, it is the invasion of the selfie brigade armed with their selfie sticks, that has given them a reason to chalk out proper crowd control measures.
The five-day festival translates into frenzied pandal-hopping in new clothes, meeting friends and family and stuffing oneself silly.
Throwing caution to the wind, the section of click-happy and fitness-freak pandal-hoppers have given their gym schedules a rest to set their eyes on special platters of Bengali dishes on offer at city restaurants to tickle the devotees' taste buds.
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.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children - Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati - descends to earth every year to visit her parents to fight evil. This is the occasion that the Puja celebrates.
Goddess Durga, the slayer of the demon Mahishasur, comes sitting astride her lion mount and wields an array of weapons in her 10 hands in symbolic representation of Shakti, or woman power.
The rituals that start off on 'Shashthi' -- the sixth day of the lunar calendar - come to an end on 'Dashami', when the idols of the goddess and her children are immersed by teary-eyed devotees in ponds, lakes and rivers across the state, severely adding to the pollution of the water bodies and waterways.
With CCTV cameras mounted at vantage locations, mobile assistance squads and sufficient women officers and plain-clothed men, the Kolkata police is keeping a round-the-clock vigil as foreigners and domestic tourists throng the city to experience the carnival.
Prior to Shasthi, the beautiful sculpted traditional clay idols crafted by the potters of Kumartuli were shuttled to the marquees based on a variety of themes like Madame Tussauds, lunar colony and tribal art.
Increasing in numbers each year, the individual Pujas in various apartments and building blocks across Kolkata are all set with their own set of cultural functions and contests for the residents.