Being a part of The Times of India Heritage Trail

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 :

Fellow enthusiasts cruising through the lanes and by lanes
Fellow enthusiasts cruising through the lanes and by lanes 
Narasingha Dawn Bari, where the Goddess is still adorned with gold and diamonds
Narasingha Daw Bari, where the Goddess is still adorned with gold and diamonds
Preparations on at full swing at the Dawn Bari
Preparations on at full swing at the Daw Bari
Baishnabdas Mallik Bari, a 235 year old Puja. Here the Goddess is accompanied by idols of Jaya and Bijaya, instead of Lakhsmi and Saraswati, which are not only taller than Ganesh and Kartick, but taller than the Durga idol too.
Baishnabdas Mallik Bari, a 235 year old Puja. Here the Goddess is accompanied by idols of Her friends Jaya and Bijaya, instead of Lakhsmi and Saraswati, who are not only taller than Ganesh and Kartick, but taller than the Durga idol too.
Baishnabdas Mallik Bari: Here the Goddess is found to be seated on the lap of Shiva. The Idol is carried on the shoulder of about 20 men, during immersion
Baishnabdas Mallik Bari: Here the Goddess is found to be seated on the lap of Shiva. The Idol is carried on the shoulder of about 20 men, during immersion
Khelat Bhaban, that boasts of the largest Thakurdalan. The Puja was first started by the Dewan of Warren Hastings
Khelat Bhaban, that boasts of the largest Thakurdalan. The Puja was first started by the Dewan of Warren Hastings
Balaram Dey Sreet Ghosh Barir Pujo. Due to legal feuds, the puja here has lost its past pomp and grandeur; and now the premises is used as a parking lot.
Balaram Dey Sreet Ghosh Barir Pujo. Due to legal feuds, the puja here has lost its past pomp and grandeur; and now the premises is used as a parking lot.
The Goddess getting ready behind the veils, at Ghosh Barir pujo
The Goddess getting ready behind the veils, at Ghosh Barir pujo
Chatu Babu Lattu Babu Durga Puja at Beadon Street- This Puja used to have animal sacrifices when it started, but was stopped within 2 years, by its patron Iswar Ramdulal deb himself, when on an Ashtami evening, the got that was to be sacrificed ran to his feet to seek shelter. Since then, only vegetables and fruits are symbolically 'sacrificed'.
Chatu Babu Lattu Babu Durga Puja at Beadon Street- This Puja used to have animal sacrifices when it started, but was stopped within 2 years, by its patron Iswar Ramdulal deb himself, when on an Ashtami evening, the goat that was to be sacrificed ran to his feet to seek shelter. Since then, only vegetables and fruits are symbolically ‘sacrificed’.
Chandelier at the Thakur Dalan at Chatu Babu Latu Babu
Chandelier at the Thakur Dalan at Chatu Babu Latu Babu
Thakur-dalan at Chatu Babu Lattu Babu: The Deb family used to have the 'Ritual of Nillkantha'. Just before the immersion the Goddess on Dashami, two
Thakur-dalan at Chatu Babu Lattu Babu: The Deb family used to have the ‘Ritual of Nillkantha’. Just before the immersion the Goddess on Dashami, two “nilkantha” birds are set free. It is said that, one of them goes to Kailash to inform the arrival of Goddess Durga, while the other bird comes home to inform the members pf the family about the safe departure of the Goddess.
Who would resist the temptation of getting clicked against such a gorgeous backdrop
Who would resist the temptation of getting clicked against such a gorgeous backdrop
Mitra Bari Thakur-dalan
Mitra Bari Thakur-dalan
Sovabazar Rajbari
Sovabazar Rajbari
The participants enjoying a light moment during the trail
The participants enjoying a light moment during the trail
Array of idols in the Thakur-dalan of Sovabazr Rajbari
Array of idols on the Thakur-dalan of Sovabazr Rajbari
The parting group photo
The parting group photo

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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 !”
For her other articles on Blong…Shong, Click Here 

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