The Durga Puja of Sheoraphuli Rajbari in Hooghly district is celebrating 287th saradastav this year. Yes, the puja was started way back in 1141 Bangabda i.e., in 1734 A.D by Raja Manohar Roy.
There is an interesting thing which I would like to mention that this year the bodhan started on 11th September at twelve noon, i.e., 42 days earlier. It sounds a little bit surprising. Yes, as far as the tradition of the rajbari is concerned the bodhan is held on the following day of Jitastami. This is called “Krishnabamadi kalparamva”. I have been informed by Shri Asis Ghosh of Sheoraphuli Rajbari that chandipath in the morning followed by arati in the evening will continue from the day of bodhan. As the Bengali month of Bhadra has two amavasyas (new moon) one on 2nd and the other on 31st, there will be no puja on the next month i.e., Aashin being a malamash. As far as I remember this type of thing happened way back in 2001.
The original home of the Sheoraphuli Raj family was in Patuli Narayanpur in Barddhaman district. That house has now ceased to exist. The Sheoraphuli Kayastha rajbansha was honoured by the Mughal emperors. During the time of Akbar the great, the Barddhaman Maharaja owned 10 ani and Sheoraphuli raja owned 6 ani. When Serampore was a Danish colony, the Danes used to pay taxes to the Sheoraphuli rajas as they were the owners of that town. Situated by the side of the Ganges, the town flourished and earned fame as far as trade and commerce was concerned due to the presence of three rivers – Ganga, Damodar and Saraswati.
The earliest of the Sheoraphuli rajas to have built a mansion here was Manohar Roy so that he could effectively manage the zamindari administration in the eleventh century Bangabda. But he did not leave Patuli. The third generation from him – Raja Harischandra Roy left Patuli completely and started living at Sheoraphuli. After him, the Sheoraphuli Raj family was divided into baro taraf and choto taraf.
Raja Manohar Roy purchased many property and also founded many temples.Once during digging up a pond for the welfare of his subjects at Atisara in Barddhaman district (later it came within Hooghly district), Raja Manohar Roy had a dream in which he saw Maa Sarbamangala a number of times. He was told that the goddess was underneath the pond. He sent a number of persons there on the next day and the digging process continued until about twenty days later a durga idol was discovered. Later the idol was cleaned and found to be of astodhuatu (an alloy of eight metals). Later on 15th Jaistha, 1141 Bangabda, ie May, 1734 Raja Manohar Roy established Maa Sarbamangala at Sheoraphuli Rajbari and, since then, daily worship is continued.
The Durga Puja is held according to Kalika Puran. The goddess is offered naibidya apart from luchi, alu bhaja, patal bhaja, different types of nadu (a sweet made from coconut) and sweets. Kumari puja is held on the day of Mahastami. Earlier there was a custom of bali or sacrifice; but now it was stopped. Only a pumpkin is sacrificed. Many people came here to offer puja during the days of the festival and, naturally, the Rajbari got crowded with many devotees.
The place can be reached both by rail and road. The nearest station is Sheoraphuli in Howrah-Bandel section of Eastern Railway. Otherwise it is just a little more than one-and-a-half hour’s drive from Kolkata via Grand Trunk Road.
The Family History of Bengal Part I – Hooghly by Pandit Sibendra Narain Sastri.
I am also indebted to Shri Asis Ghosh for providing me the photographs and the necessary information for writing this article.
Date of Posting: 18th September, 2020.