Durga Puja is the greatest festival of the Bengalees. It is celebrated both in India and abroad where there is the presence of Bengali community. In Kolkata there are a number of families who are celebrating the festival for a long time without any break. Some of the families are continuing the pujas for more than two centuries without any break. In 2017, in my blog Durga Puja of Kolkata’s ‘Bonedi’ Families I have included 38 families of the city, and, in a single year. But there are still a number of families where Durga Puja is being celebrated with equal pomp and splendour. In this blog I have included eight families of Central Kolkata; though I would like to mention that there are still a number of families left, which I hope to cover in the next year.
Durga Puja of Madan Mohan Dhar: The family is celebrating Durga Puja from 1884 onwards at 61, Patuatola Lane, Kolkata – 700009. Here Maa Durga is worshipped as Abhaya Durga with only two hands. Out of the nine forms of the goddess, Abhaya form is the last one. There is no mahisasur; but one can find two lions. The goddess is worshipped along with Kartick, Ganesh, Laksmi and Saraswati.
The puja is performed according to Baisnab rituals and hence there is no sacrifice or bali. The family earlier lived in Adi Saptagram in Hooghly district more than three hundred years and from there it divided into two parts – one living in Halisahar and the other in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The family which is now celebrating the puja is from the Halisahar branch. Here the puja is done by Baidyanath Dhar. Kumari Puja is held on the day of Nabami. Dhuno porano, a ritual, which is celebrated in many households is also peformed here meticulously after the astami puja is over. No anna (rice) bhog is offered to the goddess, hence luchi and alu bhaja apart from fruits are given to Maa Durga.
Durga Puja of Ghosal Bari of 70A, Surya Sen Street Kolkata (postal address) is celebrating the puja from 1770 onwards. The puja was started by Raghudeb Ghosal in this part of Kolkata. The puja is performed following the Baisnab rituals. The lion is here nrisingha, (a form of lion whose face is like that of a horse). According to a family member, in the 13th chapter of Chandi, there is a slok, where we find a description of the goddess. He also informed me that the actual address of this house is 72, Patuatola Lane; which is rather copmpletely different from the current postal address.
I have been told that the family deity is Madhusudan, who is being worshipped for more than three hundred years. Another attraction here is that the weapons of the deities are all made of brass. Annapurna Puja is also celebrated here; but from 1965-66, it was being performed in a ghat; though other rituals remaining the same.
In 1891, Balai Chand Ghosal and Uday Chand Ghosal, from their own properties, made this part of the house a debottar estate so that the puja can be continued without any hindrance.
Bandopadhyay barir Puja of 8, Patuatola Lane, Kolkata – 700009 is celebrating Durga Puja for 130 years. The puja was started by Binod Behari Bandopadhyay, the youngest son of Benimadhav Bandopadhyay. Benimadhav was the first Bengali attorney of the then Supreme Court. On 22nd January, 1852, Benimadhav filed his name as an attorney to the then Chief Justice Lawrence Ship. Later he joined the attorney firm of Henry Waine as a partner and the firm later came to be known as Waine and Bonnerjee. Benimadhav Bandopadhyay used to offer legal advice to the then great personaities like Rani Rashmoni, Ramdulal Sarkar and others.
Coming to the rituals of the puja, bodhan starts the day after Mahalaya. The debi ghat is placed before the idol on Saptami. Kumari puja is observed on the day of Astami. The puja is performed following the Sakto rituals. Previously there used to be sacrifice or balidan; but it was stopped from 1950 onwards.
Apart from anna bhog, five types of bhaja, sukto, fish, kichuri (prepared from rice and pulses), payesh (a preparation of milk with rice), kalar (banana) bara, puspanyo (a form of polao prepared from fine quality rice) are offered to Maa Durga.
Bandopadhyay Bari of 9/2, Patuatola Lane, Kolkata – 700009 is celebrating Durga Puja from 1791 onwards. This is the 229 year. Earlier the puja used to be celebrated at 54, Patuatola Lane; but from 1840 onwards the puja is being held at the current address. This is the seventh generation who are still continuing the age-old tradition. The puja starts the day after Mahalaya following the tantric rituals and continued for the next nine days.
Previously there used to be animal sacrifice; but only from 2017, it was stopped; though fish is offered to the Goddess. Coming to the bhog, payesh and anna bhog apart from different types of fruits are given to Maa Durga. With the stoppage of animal sacrifice, chulkumro ( a type of vegetable) is sacrificed. The dalan gets a fresh coat of white paint with the coming of the festive season.
I was astonished to see that the handle of gas lamps still exists in the dalan. It reminds us of the bygone days when there was no electricity and gas lamps used to light up this beautiful thakurdalan.
Pal Bari of 96B, S.N. Banerjee Road, Kolkata belonged to the estate of Rye Charan Pal where Durga Puja is being celebrated from 1775 onwards. The dalan is renovated and in the same dalan, Kali Puja and Kartick Puja is held. I visited this house in the previous year during Kartick Puja. Kumari puja is observed on the day of Nabami.
Here I was told by a senior family member that dhuno porano, a ritual celebrated in many household pujas of the city is not performed. No anno bhog is served to the goddess; hence luchi bhog. Many relatives came here during the puja time to enjoy the festive spirit.
Durga Puja of Umesh Chandra Chakraborty Trust Estate Thakurbari (1888) of 64, Library Row, Kolkata is celebrating Durga for more than 130 years at the same dalan. Like many bonedi bari, here also Maa Durga is worshipped following the Baisnab rituals. Vegetarian bhog like luchi, kichuri apart from other food items are offered to the deities.
Previously the idol used to be prepared in the dalan itself; but now it was bought from outside. The family deity is Lord Shiva, who is worshipped daily in the name of Umeswar. A striking feature of this puja is that Nabapatrika (kalabou) is not taken outside to any ghat for the necessary rituals on the day of Saptami; rather it was done at the house itself. A senior family member informed us that a kharga or khara (a type of sword) is surprisingly found by Umesh Chandra Chakraborty at a ghat and, from then onwards, that sword is worshipped every year on the day of Nabami.
Durga Puja of Nilmoni Dutta Thakurbari of 56/1, Doctor Lane, Kolkata is celebrating the puja for nearly 150 years. The puja was started by Nilmoni Dutta following the Baisnab tradition. This is the sixth generation who are continuing the puja at the same place. A striking feature of the puja is that different types of fruits are offered to the goddess including sugarcane. Dhuno porano is observed here not only among the female family members but other women also came here to take part in the age-old ritual for the welfare of the respective families.
I was further told that as there are five different wings of the family; so every year each family has been entrusted the duty of worshipping Maa Durga; but in the same dalan itself. Beside Durga Puja, Jagadhatri Puja is also celebrated here. The idol is prepared in the dalan, and following the tradition, kathamo puja (puja of the wooden structure) is performed on the day of Rathayatra.
Durga Puja of Kartick Chandra Dutta and Nani Lal Dutta’s house of 38, Taltala Bazar Street, Kolkata – 700014 is being celebrated from 1818 onwards. Here Maa Durga is worshipped following the Nandikeshwar rituals. Dhuno porano is practised here. Kumari Puja is also performed but here the practice is somewhat different from the other bonedi families. An unmarried female member (kumari) of a particular family is worshipped as kumari in Kumari Puja. The kumari is taken from that family only.
Here five different fruits/vegetables – sugarcane, chaci kumro (pumpkin), ginger, cucumber and lemon are sacrificed on the three days of the puja except on the day of Saptami when chaci kumro is sacrificed on the occasion of chakhu daan, a ritual connected with the puja. I was told by a famiy member that the puja is being celebrated in the same dalan except in the year 1946 when it was held in the house of Pankaj Mullick. The task of preparing this beautiful idol starts from the Bengali month of Baisakh (April-May); but only on the occasion of Rathayatra, kathamo puja is held. Presently the puja is being done by Sri Suman Kumar Dutta and his family.
A striking feature of this puja is that Maa Durga is taken to the ghat carried on shoulders for immersion. This is now becoming a very rare thing to watch. After the Dasami puja is over then comes baran of the goddess which is followed by sindur khela and lastly kanakanjali.
I would like to pay my respect to Sri Saptarsi Ghosh who helped me in locating the bonedi houses. I would also like to convey my regards to the family member of each household for providing me their family history including the Durga Puja which helped me a lot for writing this blog. Lastly, I would like to mention that my five-year old son Siladitya also accompanied me to those houses and had given me much enthusiasm.
Date of posting: 6th October, 2019.