In my previous blog the day before yesterday, I tried to cover the bonedi families of Chandannagar where Durga Puja is still being celebrated with great pomp and splendour. Chinsurah, the next station after Chandannagar is my today’s subject. Chinsurah was formerly a Dutch colony. Now Chinsurah or Chuchura is the headquarters of Hooghly district of West Bengal. There are a number of bonedi families in this town who are still worshipping Maa Durga maintaining the age-old tradition. In this blog I shall include five such families all of which were being covered by me on Nabami this year.
Datta Bari of Chinsurah is celebrating Durga Puja from 1862 onwards. This puja was started by Sagarlal Datta, a businessman of 19th century mainly trading in jute. The puja is currently being done by the sixth generation. Present in a narrow lane of Chinsurah, this house worships Maa Durga in the form of Abhaya Murti. The idol is unique in the sense that here the goddess has only two hands instead of ten and there are two lions which is a deviation from the standard one lion normally found with Maa Durga.
Following the tradition, the kathamo puja is done on the auspicious day of Rathayatra. Chokhudaan is done on the day before Mahalaya. The ritual of bodhan of Maa Durga is completed in the evening of Sasthi. Hom is done on all the three days of the puja. The ritual of dhuno porano is practised on Astami. The idol is of traditional ekchala and is prepared in the thakurdalan by the artist Kashinath Pal, whose family is preparing the protima for generations.
I have been told by a family member that beside the idol of Maa Durga, there is another idol of the goddess made from astodhatu (an alloy of eight metals) who is also worshipped side by side with Abhaya Murti, and, after the puja is over it again goes to its original place in the thakurghar, where along with Radhakanta, the goddess is worshipped daily. The idol is taken to the ghat for immersion carried on the shoulders.
The Durga Puja of Adhya Bari of Kamarpara is another house where Durga is worshipped for the last 285 years. The puja was started by Badan Chandra Adhya. The Adhya family has seven houses in Chinsurah. The house is famous for the grandson of Badan Chandra – Jogindralal Adhya who happened to be the station master of Hooghly when the first train ran between Howrah to Hooghly way back on 15th August, 1854. Jogindralal is popularly known as Jadu master.
Following the tradition of other bonedi families, the kathamo puja is performed on the day of Rathayatra. Here puja starts the day after Mahalaya.
The rituals of Kumari puja and dhuno porano by the womenfolk are meticulously performed here on the days of Nabami and Astami respectively. Maa Durga is worshipped here following the Baisnab rituals.
An unique feature of this puja is that the family members follow strictly the vegetarian diet from Mahalaya till seeing the reflection of the goddess in water (ghat biswarjan) on Dasami. The families of the artisan preparing the idol and the priest are with this puja for generations. Here Maa Durga is worshipped as Shiva-Durga.
A close look at the middle of the chalchitra will reveal the patchitra of Mahisasuramardini. The idol is adorned with gold and silver ornaments. Lakshmi Puja which is traditionally held after Durga Puja is not performed here. Apart from Durga, Lord Kartick is also worshipped here for more than a century.
Bose Bari of Sujanbagan of Chinsurah is celebrating Durga Puja since 1950. This year the puja is in its 70th year. The puja was started by Sudhir Kumar Bose, son of Late Hemendranath Bose, who happened to be the first revenue officer of the district.
The puja here is celebrated here following the Baisnab rituals and, hence there is no balidan. The atmosphere is very homely. Previously, the idol was prepared in the dalan itself. The guests were served prasad and non veg-food on the afternoon of Nabami.
Baro Seal Bari of Baro Seal Gali, Chinsurah is celebrating Durga Puja for quite some time. The house was built by Nilambar Seal, a rich and influencial merchant way back in 1763 in the Indo-Dutch style. The grand thakurdalan with courtyard reminds us of the bygone days. The house is well maintained. When I visited it on the afternoon of Nabami, I found that the family members were having their lunch in the courtyard.
This grand thakurdalan was built under the supervision of Madanmohan Seal, the second son of Nilambar Seal in 1803. I was told that earlier only Kartick Puja was held. The dalan along with the colour on both the sides is mesmerising.
The idol is traditional ekchala and here it is worshipped in the form of Haro-Gouri. The uniqueness of the idol is that it is not holding any weapons. The puja is held following Baisnab rituals. The protima is built in the thakurdalan itself following the kathamo puja on the day of Ultarath. The bodhan here takes place on the day of Sasthi. The family deity of the Seal’s is Sridhar Jiu, who is brought to the dalan on Saptami and after the day’s puja, it is taken to the thakurghar and the same practice is followed for the other three days. There is no Kumari puja but the ritual of dhuno porano is still practised on Astami.
Mallick Bari of Ghutiabazar, Hooghly is celebrating Durga Puja for more than 350 years. The dalan is renovated and had a different look during the puja times. The original place of abode of the Mallicks is Adi Saptagram and in 1492, due to lack of place they scattered in different parts. Lakshmi Narayan Dey Mallick first came to Hooghly from Saptagram and built nearly 25 temples including the famous Malick Thakur Bati. The Mallicks were gold merchants and had a flourishing business. Currently this puja is conducted by a samity comprising only the Subarnabanik class.
The kathamo puja is held on the day of Radhastami. Puja in the ghat starts here much earlier – from the day of Mahalaya; but bodhan is held on Sasthi. The puja is meticulously followed according to the Baisnab rituals and dhuno porano is performed on Mahastami. The protima is Shiva-Durga in the traditional ekchala syle with chalchitra in the background. The uniqueness of this puja is that the sebaits here supply all the necessary ingredients and materials of the puja including the naibidya as if it is their own puja. Another unique feature connected with this puja takes place on the day of Dasami before Bijoya when a song composed by the members of the family is sung before the goddess in the dalan, and, after that, Maa Durga is taken to the Ganges ghat carried on shoulders of the male members of the family for immersion.
I would like to pay my respect to my maternal uncle Sri Jagat Ghosh who accompanied me in a toto to all those houses and made my dream come true of covering Durga puja of the bonedi houses of Chinsurah and Hooghly on the day of Nabami.
Date of posting: 14th October, 2019.