Most of Bengal’s Hindu festivals are devoted to forms of the mother goddess, Shakti.

Jaidev Mela (early Jan). Baul minstrels gather to commemorate Joydeb, the revered author of the Gita Govinda, held in the village of Kendubilwa (Kenduli), near Shantiniketan.

Ganga Sagar Mela (mid-Jan). During the winter solstice of Makar Sankranti, thousands of Hindu pilgrims and sadhus gather for a three-day festival at Sagardwip, 150km south where the Ganges meets the sea.

Dover Lane Music Festival (Jan/Feb). A week-long festival in south Kolkata, attracting many of the country’s best musicians.

Saraswati Puja (Jan/Feb). Popular and important festival, dedicated to the goddess of learning and staged throughout Bengal.

Chinese New Year (Jan/Feb). Celebrated with a week-long festival of dragon dances, firecrackers and fine food, concentrated around Chinatown and the suburb of Tangra.

Muharram (dates determined by the lunar calendar; see Shi’ite Muslims mark the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussein by severe penance.

Durga Puja (Sept/Oct). At the onset of winter, Durga Puja (known elsewhere as Dasara or Dussehra) is the Bengali equivalent of Christmas. It climaxes on Mahadashami, the tenth day, when the images of goddess Durga are immersed in the river.

Lakshmi Puja (Oct/Nov). Held five days after Mahadashami on the full moon, to honour the goddess of wealth.

Christmas (Dec 25). Park Street and New Market are adorned with fairy lights and the odd Christmas tree.

Poush Mela (late Dec). Held in Shantiniketan, the mela brings in Bauls, the wandering minstrels who attract large audiences.

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