Today is the first day of autumn in the tea gardens of Assam. The garden workers do a small Puja, where they offer their prayers to mother nature. It is the start of pruning season. In another month or two, the tea bushes will stop sprouting leaves. They will need their rest, and to conserve energy to get ready for next season. A third of the garden will be pruned, and the whole garden will hibernate until March, when spring will bring the new buds to the bare bush.
Today is also the end of Durga Pujas, a 10 day festival that marks the onset of Autumn in eastern India. The monsoons retreat and you can feel the air lighten just a little bit. It is still plenty warm, but the light is different, and the skies have cleared. For once, the cars have thinned out on the roads. Throngs of people are being channelled through bamboo barricades from one 'pandal' to another. The city of Kolkata has been on holiday for a week, and every small lane leads to a 'pandal' that boasts its community's creativity.
John and I saw some amazing pandals this year. We share with you our top 3 from the ones we got to visit. ( We read in the local newspaper, there are 28000 registered pandals!)
An old bengali house themed pandal - this was our favourite. From the streets, if you didn't know what you were looking for, you'd easily miss it for another old beautiful crumbling mansion in the narrow lanes of North Calcutta.
The 'raw' themed pandal - they had bee hives, pulleys, the structure was all bamboo - what the basic structure for all pandals are, ropes, thread and straw. Natural, raw, basic - they even had mechanical levers playing soft soothing musical beats on drums hiding in the structures.
The wind energy themed pandal - this one had kites, a wind-will, the power station, power lines and homes made of wood, paper and strings to depict wind energy.
As autumn rolls in, we know you are also getting ready for some warm cups of tea (or pumpkin spice latte)! The festive season here in India is in full swing, we can't wait to head over to America next month to bring in Winter!