When someone thinks of “Kolkata”, undoubtedly “Durga Puja” is the first thing that comes to mind. Durga puja, the biggest and favorite festival of Kolkata, is celebrated with full of joy and utmost pleasure. Though it is a 5 days festival, Bengalis start all the preparations from two or three months back. Why should not they? It is a most awaited festival as Maa Durga (The Goddess of Women Power) comes after a long year.
Kolkata Durga Puja stands for Pandal hopping, Dhunuchi Dance, New dresses, Matching Accessories, Gossips, Romance, Friends and Families get together, Cinema halls, Fuchka party, Street foods, glimpse of celebrities,Night Outs and so on. People living other cities or countries visit their families and enjoy each and every beats of the festival. Not only Bengalis but other communities also come together to perform the holy festival. That is why we say Kolkata Durga Puja can’t be related to anything else.
Along with the Theme puja Pandles, “Bonedi Bari” or “ Zamindar Bari” pujas are also a huge attraction for the people of “City of Joy”. Zaminders of undivided Bengal started worshipping Goddess Durga long years back. Though their “Zaminder” title has taken place among the hazy memories , but during Durga puja, all the family members living outside of Kolkata or other countries come together to remain their tradition alive. They perform the Puja with full of faith and dedication continuing each and every rituals.
ShobhabazarRajbari pujas are very popular pujas of North Kolkata. Durga Puja takes place at the Two Palaces (BoroRajbariand ChotoRajbari) where the heirs of the Royal Family perform the Puja.
Raja Naba Krishna Deb, the honorable king of this Royal family, founded the two houses for his sons. His adopted son Gopimohonwas gifted the Boro Rajbari and he built the Choto Rajbari for his own son Rajkrishna in later days. In 1757, only Boro Rajbari started to celebrate the Puja with high spirit. Great personalities like RabindraNath Tagore, Ramaprosad, Swami Vivekananda, Ramkrishna Dev and Sister Nivedita were welcomed at the Palace to celebrate. While in 1790, the puja was started at Choto Rajbari.
Now the both palaces celebrate the religious ceremony with great enthusiasm. The puja is oraganised traditionally at the large “Nath Mandir” or “Thakur Dalan”. The members of the family witness the art of transforming just a structureor “Kathamo” into a complete “Pratima” or “Idol”.Here, the Durga Puja already starts from the day of “Kathamo Puja”. They worship Maa Durga as their own daughter. Another amusing fact is they still follow a custom of releasing “Neelkanto Bird” as a messenger to Lord Shiva like early days. People gather there to take the true essence of “SandhyaAarti”.
Where: 67C, Nabakrishna Street, Hatibagan, Sobhabazar, Kolkata
This puja is the oldest Durga puja in Bengal or we can recognize it as the first Durga Puja organized in Bengal. In the year 1610, Lakshmikant Majumder was the one who took the initiative to celebrate the Puja. It was the time when Mughal Emperor Jahangir was ruling Delhi. Lakshmikant was given the title “Roy” “Chowdhury”. Later days his ancestors actively perform the puja maintaining all the rituals. Sabarna Roy Choudhury Family is a great example of the idea of a big joint family. The bond between all the members can be found during Puja.
The uniqueness of the “AATCHALA” Durga Idol is the special attraction for the people. The color of Durga is reddish in color and Ashur is colored in Green that depicts the evilness and jealousy. On the one side of the Idol, there sits Lord Shiva and another side there sits Lord Rama. Both are being worshipped along with Durga Maa.
Where: 67/3, Diamond Harbour Road, Bata Colony, Barisha, Kolkata
DurgacharanMitra, the court jeweller of NawabSiraj-Ud- Daulah, was the founder of “Mitra Bari”. Then the family condition declined, and finally Radhakrishnan, who did much to bring back the fortune of the family, started worshipping Maa Durga in the year 1807. It is recognized among the Top three Rajbari pujas in Kolkata. Still all the rituals are followed with true believe.
Where: 42A, Rajani Gupta Row, Baithakkhana, Kolkata.
It is said that one of their ancestor dreamt of the Idol which was buried under a farmer’s house. Later days it was placed as an Idol and they started worshipping. This Puja is one of the oldest puja in Bengal. Haldar Bari Durga Puja ages almost 447 years. The idol is made of KASHTIPATHAR (Touch stone). Though present heirs of the family worshipped another new Idol along with the Old Idol.The main attractions are the traditional rituals of NabapatrikaSnan and Kumari Puja.
NabapatrikaSnan is a specialty of Haldar Family. Nabapatrika means nine plants which includes banan, colacassia, turmeric, jayanti, wood apple, pomegranate, aurum, rice and ashoka plants. These plants are tied with a yellow thread. It is said that these nine plants represents the nine forms of DURGA. Nbapatrika is placed beside the Durga Idol and worshipped.MahanabamiKumari Puja ritual is to worship a virgin girl in a form of Goddess. Before puja the girl is bathed in holy water and dressed up in flowers and new saree.
Where: 17/1 Kaliprasad Chakraborty Lane, Baghbazar, Kolkata
This puja was first started by Rani Rashmoni Roy at the Jaan Bazar area in Central Kolkata and performed by the great saint RamkrishnaParamhansa Deb. Eminent personalities like Swamiji, Netaji, Vidyasagar visited the place during puja.
The deity body is coloured in red and the face is in white colour. The “Bhog” is cooked with Ganga Water. The MahaKumari Puja is performed for three days (Saptami, Ashtami, Nabami). After the death of Rani Maa, Puja is continued by her daughters and in-laws.
Where: 13 Rani Rashmoni Road, S.N Banerjee Road, Kolkata
In the year 1840 Gokul Chandra dawn first started this Puja. Then this puja was carried by his adopted son Shibkrishna Dawn. Along with the deity of Durga, another reason of the huge attraction is the Ornaments of Gold and Diamonds. It was said that Maa Durga used to come here to wear her Ornaments. All these ornaments were brought specially from Europe.
Where: 12, Shibkrishna Dawn Lane, Jorasanko, Kolkata.
As per information received from the present successors of the family, Andul Dutta Chaudhury Family are the successors of Shri Purushottam Dutta belonging to Bharadwaja Gotro. He was one among the 5 kshatriyas who was sent to Bengal along with 5 brahmins to re-establish executive control in Bengal. They were sent in response to the invitation from King Hemanta Sen of Bengal to the then King Adisur of Kannauj (UP). At that time, Bengal was under Sen Dynasty, that started in 1095 AD.
This Andul Dutta Chaudhury family had got connections with many other bonedi baris of Kolkata. Sova Bazar Raj Bari was the son-in-law house for this Dutta Chaudhury Bari.
At a later stage, Andul Dutta Chaudhury family broke up. This was due to some internal controversy between three brothers, Ramsharan Dutta Chaudhury, Gobindasharan Dutta Chaudhury and Harisharan Dutta Chaudhury.
Shri Ramsharan Dutta Chaudhury stayed back at their house at Andul. The annual worshiping of Sri-Sri Raj-Rajeshvari Mata was started into this family by Ramasharan Datta Chaudhury in 1570 AD at a hay-brick made atchala on the bank of the Sarasvati river in Andul, by strictly obeying Tantra rituals.
Among the interesting rituals observed by the family, one is satru bali (killing the enemy). Here a human figure made with powdered rice is placed in the empty of a banana tree trunk and sacrificed. Among the main offerings to the deity are sweets like Khaja and Agamonda. Agamonda is made of coconut and kheer and is ultimately decorated with mewa and sugar candy.
The family of Kundu Chowdhury is one of the few Bonedi family who arranges Durga puja twice a year, once during Basanti puja in the month of Chaitra and again during Akal Bodon in Aswhin. Though the ancestor of the family Kushai Ram alias Kushai Dev settled at Mohiari as early as on 1745, it was only in 1816 that the most famous descendant of the family Ramkanta Kundu Chowdhury built up the present deluxe residence of the family along with next to two Shiva temple. The date on the foundation stone of one of the temples reveals the year of establishment. The family’s origin was actually from Tamluk at Medinipur.
Ramkanta had built up a monopoly in salt importing business of salt from Cheshire at England. He was involved in riverside trading as the presently non-existent Saraswati River was in full flow at that time and a large number of people came using the waterway. It was due to the fact that male members of the family returned late from the excursion that the custom of twin Puja started from late 18th century. Women performed Basanti Puja when men were on their way back home and Durga Puja in autumn when they returned safely. It is interesting to note that till date during Durga Puja there is a ritual of “Nouka Puja” where a boat is being worshiped too.
The goddess is worshipped along with Shiva as Hara-Gouri. The family has faith in Vaisnav culture and “Laxmi Janardan” is their family deity for daily worship. Apart from Durga Puja, Rash festival is also celebrated with pomp and show every year. The expenses of the Puja are met from the ‘Mohiary Kundu Chowdhury Sri Lakshmi Janardhan Jew Estate’. Although the members have vegetarian food during the Puja, they are allowed to eat fish on Dashami after the idol is being brought down from the thakur dalan. No cooked food is offered to the deity. There is no “Sindur Khela” in the family. The ladies only put little vermilion on each other’s forehead after they have completed thakur baran rituals on Dashami.
Where: P.C. Roy Road, Near Raksha Kali Mandir, Mohiari, Andul, Howrah
CONTRIBUTED BY PRIYANKA CHAKRABORTY BHATTACHARJEE
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