Ganga Sagar Mela (mid- Jan), Sagar Island. Thousands of pilgrims assemble for a fair, and a clip at dawn at the point where the Ganges enters the sea.

Saraswatl Puja (Jan/Feb), Saraswati is the Goddess of Learning and her image is always dressed in pale yellow. School and college girls dress in yellow too, and place their books at the feet of the goddess during this festival, celebrated all over Bengal.

International Flower Festival (Apt/May), Gangtok. Held at the height of the flowering season, this festival showcases Sikkim’s rare orchids, rhododendrons and other beautiful flowers.

Saga Dawa (May), Gangtok. Sacred scriptures are carried from monasteries through the streets by stately processions of lamas during this festival, which celebrates the Buddha’s birth, his enlightenment and his attainment of nirvana.

Durga Puja (Sep/Oct) Durga Puja is West Bengal’s favourite annual ritual in which simply everyone participates. Usually held between September and October, it heralds the advent of autumn and the new harvest. Each locality sets up its own Vuja, organized by local clubs and associations, finance through public subscriptions, though some of the old Bengali families perform their own Vuja in their ancestral houses. Brightly illuminated Vandals (bamboo structures), often shaped like famous monuments such as the White House or the Taj Mahal, are erected on roads and in parks, and an image of the goddess Durga¬† is installed within. The goddess is elaborately decorated and in traditional Bengali homes, real jewellery is used. Presents are exchanged and great feasts are prepared. On the final day, the images are immersed in the Hooghly, to the frantic beating of drums and cries of “Jai Ma Durga!” (“Hail to Mother Durga!”).

Burra Din (25 Dec), Kolkata. Otherwise known as Christmas, Burrs Din is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. Kolkata’s main shopping streets are lit up and little plastic pine trees, decorations and thickly-iced fruit cakes are on sale at every local market.

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