In my first blog on Howrah’s ‘bonedi‘ families published a few days back, I have covered the houses of Bally, Belur and Salkia. But there are also some houses in Andul and Shibpur, where Durga Puja is not only old but also equally famous. In Part-II of my blog on Durga Puja of Howrah’s ‘bonedi‘ families, I try to include them.
1. Dutta Chowdhury Family Durga Puja:
The Durga Puja of Dutta Chowdhury family of Chowdhury Para Lane, Andul, Howrah dates back to 450 years. The puja was started in 1568 by Ramsharan Dutta Chowdhury. According to Sri Dhruba Dutta Chowdhury, the 27th generation of the family, the present thakurdalan where the puja is being held was built in 1930; though before that there had been a dalan possibly in the same place and that was built around 1630; and before that Maa Durga was worshipped in an aatchala.
Both Kumari puja and Dhuno porana are held in the day of Nabami. Here the puja is held according to Brihatnandikeswar Puran and the family follows the Vaishnav rituals. Sacrifice or boli (and that too of vegetables) is observed on Nabami, though previously, according to Mr. Dutta Chowdhury, animal sacrifice was followed. Another interesting ritual observed by the family is satru bali (kiling the enemy). The idol of Maa Durga is prepared in the dalan itself; though separate person comes here to prepare the idol in the initial stage; separate person for colouring the idol; separate person for drawing the eye. For drawing the eye of the idol some Pal from Krishnanagar comes here in Andul. It is one of the oldest Durga pujas of Andul.
Adjacent to the thakurdalan, there are four aatchala Shiva temples, where daily worship is performed; out of which Kashiseswar is the oldest.
2. Kundu Chowdhury Family Durga Puja:
The family Durga puja of Kundu Chowdhury of Mohiari, Andul, Howrah is more than two hundred fifty years old. This family is possibly one of the few bonedi family where Durga Puja is held twice a year – Basanti Puja in the Bengali month of Chaitra (March-April) and Durga Puja in Ashwin (September-October). Both the pujas are held in this magnificent thakurdalan. The family had a flourishing business in salt and, during those days River Saraswati was navigable.
The Durga puja is held according to Vaisnav rituals. Kumari puja is held on all the four days of Durga Puja but held once in Basanti puja. Dhuno porana is observed on Astami. Lemon is sacrificed in Durga puja while watermelon in Basanti puja. Maa Durga is worshipped along with Shiva as Hara-Gouri. The kathama-puja (worship of the structure) is held in the day of Ulta Rath (the return journey of the chariot). Another interesting thing is both Basanti and Durga puja is performed in the same kathamo (structure).
The family deity is Lakshi-Janardan who is worshipped on a daily basis. There are also two adjacent aatchaa (eight roofed) Shiv Mandir outside built more than two hundred years ago by Ramkanta Kundu Chowdhury and are worshipped daily. Dolyatra, Rathyatra and Rashyatra are celebrated with equal pomp and splendour.
3. Bhattacharjee Family Durga Puja:
The Durga puja of Bhattacharjee family is one of the oldest Durga pujas in Andul. The puja is observed according to the tantric rituals. Sacrifice is performed. Kumari puja is held in the day of Nabami, though there is no tradition of Dhuno porana here. The colour of the Goddess here is orangish-red; just like the colour of the stem of siuli flower. The thakurdalan where the puja is held is renovated; though previously the puja is held in a hay-thatched aatchala.
Mahendranath Bhattacharjee, a member of the family, became a famous poet and composed many songs for yatra. Later he became famous as Premikh Maharaj and, thereafter the house is known as “Premikh Bhawan”. It is he who founded ‘Andul Kali-kirtan Samity’, and I have been shown the room where the rehearsal for the yatra isstill being held. I was told by one of the family members that Swami Vivekananada came to this house twice and that Vivekananda’s mother was a disciple of Premick Maharaj.
4. Durga Puja of Andul Raj family:
The Durga puja of Andul Raj family was started by Ramlochan Roy in 1770. The Andul Rajbari had a beautiful courtyard inside, known as Chandi mandap but the puja is held in a separate thakurdalan adjacent to the Rajbari. The puja is now celebrated by the Mitra family since the last descendant of Roy family died without any heir, thereby it got shifted to the daugther’s side. I have been told that the family had an unique tradition as far as immersion is concerned. There are temporary food stalls inside the open space. It seems that the dalan where the puja is held now-a-days is newly built. The protima is traditionally ekchala and the colour of the lion is white.
5. Bhattacharya Family’s Durga Puja, Shibpur:
The Durga puja of Bhattacharya family of 171, Shibpur Road, Howrah was started by Krishnacharan Bhattacharya, the eldest son of Raghunath Shironmoni (Bhattacharya), who happens to be the first generation of the Bhattacharya family nearly 350 years ago. This is the madhyam (middle) Bhattacharya, the baro (elder) Bhattacharya lives near the Shibpur Mandirtala bus stand; but according to Pijush Bhattacharya, a family member of madhyam Bhattacharya family, none of Baro Bhattacharya lives there and choto Bhattacharya where Durga Puja is still held lives in choto Bhattacharya para near Nabanna, Howrah.
The uniqueness of this puja is Kalabou (Nabapatrika) which is placed beside the idol of Kartick instead of Ganesh because Kartick is older than Ganesh. The puja is observed according to Shakta rituals. Kumari Puja is observed on Nabami while Dhuno porana is observed on both the days of Astami and Nabami. The lion here is white in colour and is known by the name of Narasingha.
The thakurdalan is now renovated and according to Sri Pijush Bhattacharya there is a pancha mundir aashan (a meditation seat of five skulls) over which the idol is placed. Jagadhatri and Annapurna pujas are celebrated here in the same dalan. The idol is prepared in the thakurdalan itself and after immersion, the structure or kathamo is again brought back to the dalan. The family doesn’t have the pratice of taking out of the kathamo except immersion. Unlike other bonedi houses, the idol does not have chalchitra. Only fruits are sacrificed.
6. B. K. Paul’s Family Durga Puja:
The Durga puja of B.K. Paul’s family of 38, Naba Gopal Mukerjee Lane, Shibpur, is nearly three hundred years old. This is the ancestral house of renowned pharmacist Bata Krishna Paul who had a big medicine shop at Shovabazar. The dalan is of the same age; the only change that I find while visiting this puja is that due to festive occasion, it had a fresh coat of whitewash.
The idol of Maa Durga here is Abhaya Murti, where Maa Durga has only two hands – in one hand she is offering us blessings and in the other she is holding a full bloom lotus with a fruit. The idol of Maa Durga is without any Asur (demon). The kathamo puja is performed on the auspicious day of Rathyatra and the idol is prepared in the thakurdalan itself.
The bodhan of Abhaya Durga began in Krishna Nabami tithi prior to a fortnight of Debipaksha. Chandipath is observed till Nabami. Another thing is that Nabapatrika is bathed in the house itself and not in the Ganges. The puja here is held according to Shakta rituals. Sandhi puja is performed according to tantric rituals. Dhuno porana is observed on Astami in which not only the ladies of the Paul family but also other women of the neighbourhood takes part. Animal sacrifice takes place here on the days of Saptami, Astami and Nabami including mahish boli (buffalo sacrifice) on Nabami only.
7. Roychowdhuri Barir Durga Puja (Sanjher aatchala):
The Durga puja of Rowchowdhury family of 46A/11, Shibpur Road, Howrah was started in the Bengali year 1092 which according to Gregorian calendar dates back to 1685 A.D by Raja Rambramha Roychowdhury of Roychowdhury Zamindar family in an aatchala known as “Sanjher aatchala”. The protima is not traditional ekchala but tin (three) chalas. Like B.K. Paul’s house, animal (goat) sacrifice is followed on all the three days of the puja. The idol of Maa Durga is really spectacular with tana chok. The puja is now held in a fully renovated thakurdalan and when I visited it during the afternoon, I found a lot of people were being served bhog.
I would like to thank the family members of the bonedi houses in Andul and Shibpur area visited by me. Special thanks to Sri Dhruba Dutta Chowdhury of Andul who accompanies me to the bonedi houses of Andul.
Date of posting: 19th October, 2018.