If there is one time of the year when Bengalis buy new clothes for the entire family, it is during the grand festival of Durga Puja, or known simply as Pujo. Celebrated during the last 4 days of Navratri, culminating months of elaborate preparations, it is marked by worship, feasting, pandal hopping, and of course, dressing up.
Here’s a quick guide to the sarees that Bengali women typically choose to wear during each day of the Durga Puja celebrations.
- Saptami (7th day of Navratri): Saptami morning starts with a visit to the neighbourhood pandal. Light tant or dhakai cotton sarees with minimal makeup are a good way to begin the Devi darshan. The evenings are a grander affair with lavish silks for visiting pandals all over town with friends and relatives.
- Ashtami (8th day of Navratri): Ashtami is the biggest day of Durga Puja when all nine forms of the goddess are worshipped. On this day, the famous red-n-white Bengali saree is draped in the morning to offer pushpanjali to the goddess. It could be a simple white tant saree with a red border, or an off-white garad silk with a broad red border. Married women further adorn themselves with white bangles made of conch shells (called “shakha”) and red coral bangles (called “pola”), along with red sindoor on the forehead, all symbols of her marital status. Older women or women who have lost their husbands drape white or off-white tant/garad sarees with the border in a colour other than red (orange, blue, green, etc.). Garad-korial silks, which are more elaborate forms of the garad sarees may also be worn. Ashtami evenings are reserved for the most gorgeous outfits of the festival season. Brilliant kanthas, ravishing jamdanis, sublime muslins, exquisite balucharis, stunning silks from other regions or even stylish contemporary sarees are worn for the festivities.
- Navami (9th day of Navratri): Navami mornings are again a simpler affair with a light saree such as a tussar silk or jamdani, while the evenings see more luxurious drapes, for the final pandal hopping, feasting, cultural performances and other celebrations.
- Vijaya-Dashami (or Dussehra): Vijaya-Dashami marks the end of Durga Puja, where all gather to bid farewell to the goddess. The red-n-white saree is again donned by women on this day to apply sindoor to the goddess and her 4 children (Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Karthik) and also on each other’s foreheads in a fun-filled ceremony called ‘sindoor khela’.