It’s disheartening to celebrate Durga Puja’s Sindoor Khela ceremony when a ‘no-touch’ policy takes over our lives (we’re looking at you, COVID-19!). Nonetheless, its rosy-hued magic need not be left uncelebrated. Join us on a visual journey through these vermillion-painted photographs and recreate the happiness straight from your home. By Bayar Jain

Each year, on the last day of the revered Durga Puja festival or Vijayadashami, red hues take over the streets of Kolkata. An otherwise relatively sombre festival is marked with happiness on this day, courtesy the vibrant sindoor khela ceremony. Although emotional—considering it coincides with the day devotees bid adieu to Her with a symbolic immersion (ghat visarjan)—it’s a day marked by customs, traditions, and sheer joy.

Among the many things this ongoing pandemic has halted, it has given rise to a prevailing ‘no-touch’ policy, effectively hampering any sindoor khela celebrations this year. However, all hope isn’t lost. We’ve rounded up photographs of this infectiously vibrant day to help recreate the magic.

Sindoor khela, literally translating to vermillion dance, is all about smearing the bright powder on women’s faces as a mark of womanhood.

As per beliefs, participating in this colourful ceremony is also seen as a means of protecting the woman’s husband and children from evil. A commonly held belief is that by performing the rituals correctly, the woman will never be widowed.

Either way, it’s all about spreading happiness! And why not? A typical sindoor khela ceremony involves women across all ages (over the years, the ceremony has become more inclusive to include non-married women, widowed ladies, and members of the transgender community as well—something that was frowned upon earlier) doing dhunuchi naach, playing the reverberating conch shells, and showing off their gorgeous shankha, pola and noa. 

Post the idol immersion, the sindoor khela ceremony begins by performing an aarti and applying the vermillion powder on Durga’s forehead.

Considering the ceremony is ordinarily celebrated by women, it’s only fair for the festivities to begin with the supreme woman herself!

The sindoor is gently applied to the idol’s feet and forehead, post which She is offered betel leaves for the puja. A deliciously sweet sandesh is then placed on the idol’s mouth.

Post these sombre rituals, it’s time for the celebrations to turn to the common-folk where the same prasaad is shared among women as well. Replete with sweets, this bhog is sure to make one’s mouth drool!

The vegetarian bhog—that the Goddess indulges in during the entire Durga Puja festivities—is replaced by a non-vegetarian affair.

Next, a bout of community dancing and vermillion smearing! Irrespective of relationships, everyone smears sindoor on each other’s face, drenching the white saree in bright shades of red.

Once the ceremony ends, a red river flows through the streets and gleaming faces paint every body.

Related: Missing Kolkata’s Durga Puja This Year? These Photos Will Recreate That Feeling Of Nostalgia For You!