शरणागत दीनार्त परित्राण परायणे । सर्वस्यार्तिहरे देवि नारायणि नमो स्तुते ॥
सर्वाबाधा प्रशमनं त्रैलोक्यस्याखिलेश्वरि। एवमेव त्वया कार्यमस्मद्दैरिविनाशनम्॥
Yet again it’s that time of the year when the sky is bright blue filled with white candy floss clouds, and the air is filled up with the sweet smell of ‘Shiuli’ or ‘Nyctanthes arbor-tristis’ flower. One of the most important festivals of the Bengalis, ‘Durga Puja’ has arrived. Coming to the Durga Puja of Kolkata, there are two types of Puja conducted in the City of Joy firstly the committee puja, and secondly the ‘Bonedi Bari’. The exclusive story of Global Tribune covered by our Chief Correspondent Ms Debanjali Saha. She talked to the members of Dutta Family, Mr Shuvrodeep Mitra and Ahijit Ghosh.
If one wants to feel the essence of proper Durga Puja then people must visit the ‘Bonedi Bari Durga Puja’. These pujas are usually conducted by the city’s old aristocratic and zamindar families in their ancestral and heritage mansions. Around thousands of people visit these pujas to feel the old ethnic pujas of West Bengal.
One of the oldest pujas of Kolkata is the ‘Hatkhola Dutta Bari Old Since 1716’ Durga Puja. This century-old ancestral heritage hosts over 300 years old Durga Puja. The house is located in the streets of North Kolkata in Madan Mohan Dutta Lane. The puja was started by the fifth generation of the Dutta family, Madan Mohan Dutta in 1716. The mansion which is said to be built around the 1690s is comprised of 75 rooms.
As per history, Gobindoshon Dutta Chowdhury left the Andul Rajbari as well as the title “Chowdhury” which was bestowed upon his family by the Britishers. Madan Mohan Dutta is the great-grandson of Gobindoshon Dutta Chowdhury. In 1716, Madan Mohan started the Durga Puja.
Every household has its way of celebrating the Durga Puja, so does the Hatkhola Dutta Bari. The Durga Puja commences on the Navami Tithi of the Ulto Raath Yatra by the ‘Kuthi Puja’. The puja is conducted by the head purohit or pandit of the house. Coming to the day of Mahalaya as the early sunrise hours of the day gets buzzed with ‘Devi Jagran’ the Dutta bari is also all set to prepare for the upcoming puja.
The most significant rituals of Durga Puja is the ‘Choku Daan’ ceremony. The ceremony is performed on the eve of Mahalaya after sunset. Another unique ritual of the Dutta Bari is that all the members of the family are required to eat veg food for fifteen days which is broken on the day of Nabami. Till then all the members have veg food without onion and garlic.
The actual Durga Puja begins on Sosthi. There is a special room just beside the Puja Dalan that is known as the ‘Hom Ghar’ or the hawan room. In the ‘Hom Ghar’ during the puja, all the four days (Shasthi to Nabami) a havan is performed by the pandit. The fire of the havan is lit up for 24*7 and is not blown off until the ninth day of the puja. On the seventh day of the puja, Saptami begins with the ritual of ‘Kola Bou Snan’. During the procession of taking the Kola Bou, the men of the house carries an umbrella and fan made out of silver. On the other hand the ‘Kumari Puja’ commences. In the ‘Kumari Puja’, a young Brahmin girl is worshipped as Durga Maa. Another distinctive tradition of the house is that a special fish delicacy is prepared on Saptami.
Coming to the next day is the Ashtami day. Out of all the day, Ashtami, or the eighth day of the puja is considered to be the most important day. On this day, the Kumari Puja is continued along with the ‘Shandhi Puja’. During the puja, the pandit offers 108 lotuses to the Goddess. The pandit performs a sacrifice known as the ‘Shotru Boli’ in front of the Goddess. During the sacrifice, no family members are permitted to look at the sacrifice. (Basically, a demon is made out of the curd prepared by the family members.)
The demon signifies all the evil power that is destroyed by sacrificing it. The household offers a special dish in odd numbers known as ‘Bhog’. The Bhog comprises completely veg delicacy including Pulao, luchi, aloo dum, chutney, mix veg, and many more. The next day is the ‘Nabami Puja’ which marks the ninth day of the Durga Puja. After the Nabami Puja, the Dutta bari members break their 15-days veg food schedule with the consumption of a delicacy prepared either with mutton or chicken. There is another interesting facet of the Dutta Bari. No family members enter the kitchen in which the delicacies for the puja is prepared. Only the cooks are permitted to enter and use the kitchen.
Finally, after four days of joy, it’s time for Maa to return to her husband. With a heavy heart it’s the day to say adieu to Maa, and wait for another year. However, it does not matter whether it’s the first or the last day of Puja, as the Dutta Bari celebrates it with great grandeur.
On this day, all the married women of the house are decked up in red and white traditional saree with gold jewellery. The head women of the house begin the ‘Boron’ of Durga Maa followed by other women. The headwoman is required to wear a ‘Nath’ or the nose jewellery to perform the ritual. After the ceremony, the ‘Sindur Khela’ begins where all the married women wear vermillion on their forehead.
After the ‘Sindur Khela’, the idol is carried on shoulder by the male members of the family to the Ghat for ‘Bisarjan’. Previously, the family used to fly two ‘Neelkanth’ bird one before the Goddess is taken out for the immersion, and the second after the immersion. However, the ritual has been stopped as per the rules and regulations by the Government. The Goddess along with her children is taken for immersion. The idol is then taken on a boat and taken to the middle of the river for immersion. This marks the end of the festival. Young people touch the feet of elders and wish them ‘Shubho Bijoya’. The people greet each other with special sweets.
सर्वमङ्गलमाङ्गल्ये शिवे सर्वार्थसाधिके। शरण्ये त्र्यम्बके गौरि नारायणि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥