I have come across a number of houses in Howrah who are celebrating Durga Puja in a grand way and some of them are pretty old. Last year, I was invited to a family Durga Puja organised by the Barals at 75, Raj Ballav Saha Lane, Howrah – 711101. Though comparatively new as far as the age of the puja is concerned, but the striking thing here is the idol of Maa Durga which drew my attention.
I along with my family went there on the morning of Sasthi. I was greeted by the family members. At that time the bodhan was going in a bel tree in the drawing room and the priest was chanting the hymns. The family members have arrived. The room was filled with the beautiful smell of incense sticks. The beautiful idol of Maa Durga was placed in the courtyard. I was told that the puja officially started here way back in 2001 though in 1999 and 2000 an small idol measuring about twelve inches was prepared by Barun, a family member. That idol was made of clay. Though puja in that way was not celebrated in 1999 and 2000; but the goddess was worshipped using only garlands and sweets. From 2001 onwards, the puja was meticulously performed following the Basinav rituals as the presiding deity of the Barals is Lakshmi Narayan Jiu.
The Barals were earlier the residents of Saptagram and they were subarnabanik by caste dealing mainly with gold. But the family shifted to Bowbazar in Calcutta. Shri Hari Charan Baral later shifted his residence from Bowbazar to Howrah.
A piece of land was purchased here in Howrah and a beautiful spacious house was built. I was told that the present house was more than 150 years old. I was speaking to the fifth generation from Hari Charan Baral. Hari Charan’s grandson, Kripanath Baral was a wealthy man and was one of the earliest investors of Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE); but the good days of the family did not last long as Kripanath babu incurred heavy losses in the shares so much so that he died prematurely.
The Durga Puja of Baral Bari will be completing twenty years in this year. Completely a family puja, all rituals pertaining to the puja is followed here. On the days of Saptami, Astami and Nabami Maa Durga is served only vegetarian dishes like kichuri, luchi, polao and tarkari apart from sweets and that too in stone utensils. Another interesting there here is about the nabapatrika which is bathed in the premises and that tree is taken care of round the year. During Sandhi puja, 108 oil lamps with primary ingredient ghee is lighted making the entire ambience truly spectacular. The ritual of dhuno porana is practiced here and only the married women take part. There is no animal sacrifice here. Nabagraha hom is a special feature of Nabami. On the day of Dasami after the puja and baran are over the goddess is immersed in the Ganges.
Another thing which I would like to mention that earlier from 2001 till 2004, the Durga idol was prepared by Barun Baral, a family member and the fifth generation from Shri Hari Charan Baral. From 2005 onwards the idol was prepared by a local artisan and, that too in the house itself. The kathamo puja is performed on the auspicious day of Rathyatra and the idol is complete in all respects including ornamentation by Sasthi.
I am thankful to Smt Soumi Baral and Shri Barun Baral who helped me in providing necessasry information.
Date of Posting: 7th September, 2020.