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3 great places to experience Durga Puja in West Bengal, Rajbari style

 Plus, a great boutique hotel in town for those who prefer a more laid-back Kolkata vacay.

A suite at the Bari Kothi in Murshidabad, West Bengal.

Kolkata is gearing up for its biggest yearly celebration. The skies are clearing up to welcome Sharath kal. The energy in the city is infectious. A packed New Market, SreeLeathers, Nizam's, and Gariahat, all bear witness to the pujo fervor, and the bargaining of course.

Pujo in Kolkata was obviously a relatively muted affair in the last two years. That's likely to change now. If you are planning to travel to the City of Joy for a bit pandal-hopping and festivities, here's our curated list of heritage properties to stay at:

Bari Kothi

Located in Murshidabad, the last capital city of independent Bengal, this iconic property on the banks of the Ganga was built in the late 1700s. Bari Kothi has 15 suites that the guests can check into.

From a leisurely stroll along the 100-feet-long Ghat to enjoying tea on the river bank, organic five-course meals, and heritage walks – Bari Kothi offers everything on a silver platter.

Last year marked their first Durga Puja, and this year’s celebration is equally promising. With the promotion of Bengal’s rich culture and heritage in  mind, pujo will begin with the grand inauguration, the Devi Bodhan and Amantran, and be followed by Nabopatrika (Kalabou Snan) and the start of the Mahapuja.

Although the celebrations are purely Bengali, traditionally the Sheherwali cuisine served at Bari Kothi is completely vegetarian. From Sandhi Puja and Dhunuchi naach (do not miss this) on Ashtami till Bishorjon on Dashami, expect the whole nine yards and five days of cultural presentation including folk dance and music namely, Baul, Fakiri, Sadri dance, Raibenshe, and flute to add to the celebrations.

The Belgadia Palace

The Belgadia Palace is an 18th-century double-story structure built in a classical Western style with Doric-Corinthian columns; a heavy-handed mix of Greek and Victorian architecture – think Dark Academia.

Home to the erstwhile royal family of Mayurbhanj, this boutique homestay has 11 rooms and seven common areas for guests. With the idea of purposeful travel in mind, guests can engage with the local tribal community through curated tours.

During pujo, there's morning and evening aarti with the royal family. Bhog is served to all; and regional dishes namely pithasbadismudhi mangsho (a local meat delicacy) are also offered as a part of the cultural experience.

As part of the festivities, guests can witness a Mayurbhanj Chhau Performance (folk martial arts dance). Local Dokra artists are expected to showcase their handicrafts, and the iconic Black Stone Carving and Sabai Grass products would also be available to buy at the in-house boutique store with pujo-themed wares.

Jhargram Palace

Around 1574 AD, Man Singh I, the 29th Kachwaha Rajput Raja of Amer, came to conquer Bengal at the behest of Akbar - this is what lay the grounds for Jhargram Palace.

With 15 rooms, the palace is a great spot for those who like a bit of pomp. The Malla Dev family celebrates their tradition with grandeur. Pujo is celebrated in the Kuldevi temple in a traditional Patachitra painting; with Chandipath that continues for 10 days, from Mahalaya to Dashami. Ashtami (the eighth day) witnesses a maha aarti followed by dhakis (traditional dhak players) who show off their skills during the puja.

While the rituals are organized and performed by the royal family of Jhargram, guests can witness the Dussehra procession, visit the Kuldevi Temple on Dussehra morning and enjoy Ravan pura in the evening.

On request, bhog can be served to the guests in the dining room. The bhog  thali typically includes khichdi, sabzi bhaja, ghonto , shukto, shuji, and payesh. Mutton curry is available on Nabami. Guests can also indulge in pandal-hopping around the city, visit the tribal interpretation centre and see Khoabgaon, a tiny hamlet in Jhargram known for tribal art and wall paintings.

The Malla Dev family of Jhargram Palace celebrates their tradition with great pomp.

For the more laid-back crowd, we’ve listed (arguably) the best boutique hotel in town; thank us later.

Calcutta Bungalow

Tucked away in a lane near Shyambazar, Calcutta Bungalow is a restored 1920s townhouse that relays the story of the golden era in Calcutta's architectural history. As you near the property, the bottle-green Ambassador (OM Series 3) used to ferry passengers comes into sight– talk about a classic.

The property offers six well-appointed rooms namely Patuapara, Jatrapara, Mochipara, Boipara, Sahibpara, Darzipara; all representative of different neighbourhoods in the city. It is designed tastefully with the finest details and knick-knacks.

With a hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu that spans both Bengali and Continental cuisine, Calcutta Bungalow rightly represents the leisurely pace and old-world charm of the city. Do not forget to drop by Calcutta Collectibles, the souvenir shop inside the property to take home a piece of Kolkata.

Top Tip: Eating biryani during pujo is a must-do, and the legendary Aminia in Hatibagan is only a few minutes away - we recommend trying the Chicken and Mutton Biryani, Chicken Handi, and Chicken Chaap if you’re dining in. For something quick (because Shyambazar will be packed), do not look beyond the kathi rolls.

PS: Although it didn’t make it to the list, The Rajbari Bawali (an hour and a half from the city) is also a fine option.

Source : Money Control

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