Bonedi Barir Durga Puja in Kolkata and visiting a few Puja Pandals (shot on iPhone)

Kolkata is a city that truly comes alive during Durga Puja festivities, and for nine days the city just doesn't sleep. I was fortunate to visit the city and participate in the festivities in the year before Covid-19 hit us and capture my experiences.

This is a story from my visit to Kolkata recently.

Bonedi Barir and Pandals

As a visitor, there are two different ways to enjoy Durga Puja in the city. You can either visit the Pandals and see the grandest possible idols or visit Bonedi or Raj Baris in and get an intimate experience by celebrating the festival with the old and elite families of Kolkata. When I was in Kolkata, I used my time there to do both, but with much more focus on the Bonedi Bari celebrations. My friend and fellow photographer Ashish was my partner in crime and it was actually him who was often the one finding these hidden gems.

Watch the video here!


However, it's not that simple either. Kolkata is a huge city and there are numerous Puja activities in both the North and the South part of the city. The days of Durga Pooja are quite busy, so you really need to pick which part of the town you would like to be on which day. Once you are in that part, it's best to explore it all on foot - getting a cab could be quite challenging and walking is also often faster. So yes, decide what you want to do and also decide which part of the city you would like to explore.

Here is my suggestion - if you are most interested in the Bonedi Baris or homely poojas, explore North and grand pandals are your area of interest, South has the best of them. Also the Bonedi Baris are small and intimate affairs, and usually attract small crowds. Yes, many photographers come there as well as others from the neighbouring homes, but the main attraction during Durga Pooja during these ten days are certainly the pandals.

Shooting with the iPhone

Shooting in the Rajbaris of Kolkata with the iPhone was a delightful experience. It allowed me to stay conspicuous, and get intimate with the surroundings.

I used the brand new wide angle lens to capture the massive Durga idols, and portrait lens to capture all the smaller nuanced rituals. I also absolve the fact that we can now take both the wide and tele lens, allowing for some excellent portraits. The portrait mode also works in low light and that makes it possible to take portraits in much darker environments.

Some of the pandals are also quite dark and I used the dark mode for those pictures. It’s pretty intuitive to use it as it turns on by itself when the light is low.

The world now...

The world has changed so much now and I can't wait for things to normalise so that I can attend and participate in Indian festivals once again. It may not happen anytime soon and though I support the restrictions on large gatherings, I do feel sad within for these missed years of my life, like I am sure we all do...


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