They say change is the only constant. Take Durga Puja for an example. As the legend goes, this autumnal ritual commemorates the premature invocation (Akal-bodhon) of the Goddess by Lord Rama before going to war against Ravana. Since then, it has evolved in all kinds of ways and forms. In its earliest forms, only the affluent households like those of the Zamindars and Rajas celebrated it as a private affair. The festival became more community based with the introduction of ‘Baro-yari’ puja or the twelve-pal puja, marking the beginning of mass involvement and celebration, and finally giving way to the ‘Sarbajanin Pujo’ or community celebration.
However, over the years with the change in the society structure, ‘Barir pujo’ is now almost a dwindling concept. Nuclear families, legal feuds over property share and migration of the family members have all contributed to the slow death of this culture. And finally, the overwhelming upsurge of “theme” pujos with big budgets and bigger idols have put that final nail to the coffin of Bonedi barir pujo. But even amidst these, there are still some households that have managed to hold on to their heritage and tradition of celebrating the yearly visit of the mighty Goddess. The Heritage Trail organized by the Passions club – Times of India, Kolkata, gave us this precious opportunity to visit and imbibe the nuances of Bonedi barir pujo all over again.
The trail started off on a Sunday morning, with some 25 selected participants. We were ably conducted through the lanes and bylanes of central/north Kolkata by the Times team, and the patron of ‘Walks of Kolkata’, who provided us with a detailed history of each place. Entering those houses, standing in the Thakurdalan, talking to the family members who shared stories and folklores of their barir pujo…. the experience was nostalgic, awe-inspiring and unforgettable in equal parts. I also got to interact with a lot of people from different walks of life, each unique as an individual. We got certificates in the end as well….so yes, I was happy and enriched at the end of it 🙂
Sharing glimpses of the trail :
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Devlina, in her own words is “just another Bengali woman proud of her Rabindrasangeet and Rosogolla roots ….. a psychiatry resident, still picking up the shells on the Freudian shore !”
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