Kolkata, Oct 21 (IANS) People from all walks of life and age groups Sunday thronged colourful pandals (marquees) to soak in the festivities and celebrate Mahasaptami - the second day of Durga Puja in West Bengal.
The day started with the 'pran pratistha' ritual, where the deity is symbolically endowed with life. The 'kola bou', a tender banana plant symbolising a bride, is given a bath with river water amidst drum beating, wrapped in a sari and placed next to the idol of Ganesha.
After the ritual, the puja begins with fasting devotees paying obeisance to Goddess Durga.
Celebrities from varied fields, including actors, politicians and sportspersons, joined the festivities with commoners.
Former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly offered prayers at a pandal in city's Behala neighbourhood.
President Pranab Mukherjee conducted all the rituals at his ancestral home in Birbhum district.
According to Hindu mythology, the festivities and prayers begin with the symbolic arrival of the goddess on earth on the sixth day of the first quarter of the moon and ends on Dashami or the 10th day, which is celebrated across the country as Dussehra.
Traditionally, every pandal has an idol of Goddess Durga depicting her as slaying the demon Mahishasur. She is shown astride a lion and wielding weapons.
There was an added sense of festivity in the air with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offering a 10-day holiday to state government officials for the festival, till the Laxmi Puja Oct 29.
With over 2,000 puja pandals spread across the city, revelers had fun hopping from one marquee to another and appreciating the efforts put in by the organisers to showcase innovative and imaginative themes.
The Maddox Square Durga puja was appreciated by devotees for being purely traditional and it had the Ekchala pattern of idols.
It has nostalgia, an air of reminiscence and an aura around it. The huge gathering of people of all age groups, the chatting, the discussion, the gossips that go on among friends while sitting on the puja ground has a special feel, said a visitor.
The South Kolkata's Behala Sree Sangha Pandal mirrors the look and appearance of Jaganmohan Palace, Mysore. Just like the palace, the pandal is also built in traditional Hindu style and is nearly 140-foot tall.
The Singhi Park Sarbojanin Durga Puja, also in south Kolkata and one of the biggest crowd-pullers, has a pandal designed like the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple of Madurai.
Long queues of devotes could be seen at almost all the pandals as cameras and mobile phones incessantly clicked to capture the moments.
City restaurants offering special delicacies did brisk business.
In the evening, the presence of a large number of revelers on roads caused snarls on many city roads.