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Published on : Thursday, October 12, 2017
India, the seat of ancient cultures and diverse religions glows with a brilliant charm of various festivals observed perennially.
‘Durga Puja’, also revered as ‘Durgotsava’ is an annual Hindu festival in the Asian countries of India and Bangladesh. Great pomp personifies the five-day festivities in India, particularly in the states of West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and Tripura. The Hindu month of ‘Ashvin’, typically September or October witnesses the observance of this popular festival.
Elaborate temple and stage decorations (termed as ‘pandals’), scripture recitation, processions and performance arts adorn the streets during Durga Puja.
The festival marks the triumph of good over evil, marked by the battle of Hindu Goddess Durga with the deceptive buffalo demon ‘Mahishasura’, following the ancient religious beliefs of Hinduism.
Acclaimed internationally, the grand festive event has been captivating the attention of wanderlust-bitten souls all across the planet.
The West Bengal government had introduced special passes for pandal visits in 2017 for the very first time, aiming to lure international tourists. The ‘Sharodotsav 2017 special guest passes’ were issued for the Puja and Red Road carnival conducted on 3rd October, as per the state tourism department.
Durga Pujas of the Kolkatan Elite
The ‘Bonedi Baris’ (palatial private mansions of the aristocrats) of the city Kolkata, West Bengal, of late have started captivating the attention of regional Puja revelers as well as many domestic and international globetrotters.
Most of these families have been affluent stalwarts in yesteryear, especially during the Colonial Regime.
Their present financial conditions might not be as prosperous as it used to be back then, mainly since the ‘Zamindari’ system was abolished after the Indian independence. However, these Pujas, some of them dating back to over 200 and 300 years have beautifully preserved the past glory, albeit through their adherence to intricate rituals.
All the members of these illustrious families assemble during this festival as a frolic-filled annual festival for celebrating this grand festive event.
The Puja customs have progressed down the generations, like a family heirloom. And now, they are making the best efforts to strike a unique balance between traditions and modernity.
For instance the 260-year-old Durga Puja at Shobhabazar Rajbari, initiated by Raja Nabakrishna Deb in 1757 has embraced its original traditions after a century. This year witnessed the original golden colour of the ‘ekchala’ idol from the silver shade. A descendant of the family, Debraj Mitra told the regional media that they have revived the tradition of inviting Shehnai artistes from Varanasi to perform in the festivities.
Darjipara Mitra Bari
Another interesting contemporary Bonedi Bari Durga Puja is the one observed meticulously at the ancestral residence of the Mitra family. The legacy can be traced back to Durgacharan Mitra who owned many businesses, being the court jeweler of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal. The legacy was continued by his nephew Nilmani Mitra, and eventually by Nilmani’s grandson Radhakrishna Mitra.
This year marked the 211th year of the Puja.
Sabarna Roychowdhury Bari
The family of Sabarna Roychowdhury has been celebrating Durga Puja since 1610 in their ancestral house at Barisha – making it the most ancient Puja in the city! They represent the yesteryear Zamindars or superior landlords of the region of Kolkata, prior to the British Raj.
The Pujas observed at Khelat Chandra Ghosh, Pathuriaghata, Dutta Bari at Balaram Dey Street, Laha Bari, Shibkrishna Dawn Bari, Rani Rashmoni’s mansion, Chatubabu Latubabu, etc. are some of the other precious remnants of yesteryear nobility.
Every year, several global vacationers opt to explore the magic of Kolkata’s aristocracy – highlighted aesthetically by these Pujas.