This is the time for celebrating Ma Durga's presence on earth for five days. Like in every town, village and city in India, Mumbaikars -- among them Bollywood celebrities, too -- take to pandal-hopping with gusto, and if you are a serious pandal-trekker you could be lucky enough to spot a celebrity or two at odd hours in some of Mumbai's biggest Pujas.
Bengali celebrities including Kajol, Rani Mukherji, Ayan Mukherji, filmmaker Anurag Basu and Sushmita Sen have often been spotted seeking Ma Durga's blessings at pandals over the years. Singer Abhijit has been enthusiastically involved with organising a Puja for years now.
Mumbai has some iconic Durga Pujas visited by celebrities over the years.
North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samity located in Juhu is a hub where the who's who of Bollywood drop by, to offer anjai to the goddess and have bhog prasad. Like every year, this year too, the Puja has seen its sprinkle of starry presence.
If Kajol was present at the mandap of the Juhu Puja on Friday on the occasion of mahasashti puja, Saturday was the day of maha saptami when her cousin Rani Mukerji turned up. This pandal grabs a lot of eyeballs of the commoners because a major highlight is celebrities often serving the traditional Bengali abhog' to devotees.
"I feel it's the blessing and love of Ma Durga towards our family. There are a lot of things involved to organise this kind of festival and I feel that without her will, we wouldn't have completed even one year. Every year, people from Mumbai, outside Mumbai and outside our country come here to seek blessing of Ma and we feed them during this festival," said Rani, about the North Bombay Sarbojanin Durga Puja Samity festivity, which she has come to identify with,over the years.
This year, in fact, Rani said she had a special reason to identify with the Puja. Her film "Mardaani 2" is coming up, and she finds resonance in the power of the goddess with her role of a tough cop in the film.
"I feel glad that we released first look and the teaser of aMardaani 2' during Durga Puja festival. During this festival, we worship Ma Durga who isknown as a symbol of strength and there is an essence of Ma Durga in 'Mardaani 2', so I feel really happy that we have managed to communicate with the audience for the first time for aMardaani 2' during the Durga Puja festival," said Rani.
Earlier on Friday evening, actress Kajol was spotted along with her mother, the veteran actress Tanuja, and sister Tanishaa.
Sharing her about the festive season, Kajol had said: "We are ardent followers of Ma Durga and we celebrate the Navratri festival with joy and passion. I think Ma is biggest among all. We have a lot of fun celebrating this festival and we do service to her diligently over these nine days."
Asked what she asked for from the deity in her prayers, Kajol had replied: "I never ask anything from Goddess Durga. Whenever I visit a temple or seek blessing of any god I feel, more than asking for anything, we should be grateful for whatever they have given us."
Kajol's mother, actress Tanuja, said: " Ma Durga is the mother of all. My mother-in-law taught me that spreading love among each other is the most important thing. This festival brings all of us together. "
Another popular Durga Puja pandal is of Lokhandwala Durgotsav, organised by the Bollywood playback singer Abhijit Bhattacharya. Starting from 1996, this is one of the popular and old Durga Puja Pandals of the western suburban area.
These apart, there are places like Thakur Village Durga Puja, The Bengal Club at Shivaji Park, and Ramakrishna Math and Mission at Khar Road area, where celebrities ranging from the Bachchan family to several popular singers and Bollywood personalities are known to gather.
Although the practice of the Puja holds a religious significance, it is the very essence of the Indian culture that has transformed the religious festival into a celebration of culture that unites people from different walks of life, beyond religion.
A dash of Bollywood only adds to the colours in Mumbai during the season of the Pujas.