There are a number of old Durga pujas in Howrah district and, mainly they are celebrated in bonedi households. Of the few such pujas I visited a couple of years back I have come across one at Chaitalpara in Bally, popularly known as Buri Maar Aatchala. It is not known for sure when it actually started but according to sources it began about three hundred years back as a household puja.
It was said that Pandit Late Rambhadra Nyay Lankar (Bhattacharjee) of Nadia district having received the zamindari rights came to Bally village. This Bhattacharjee family later became Chaital Chattopadhyay family. As far as it was known about three hundred and fifty years ago either Pandit Rambhadra or his grandson Gobinda Bhattacharjee erected an aatchala and set up a sansksrit tol there. This puja later on came to be known as Buri maar aatchala only because of its age. This puja is now taken over by Bally Chaitalpara Aaatchala Burimaar Sarodostav Committee.
The puja was previously held in the thakurdalan of an aatchala house; but now a new permanent structure was built in 1983. It consists of the homkundu, place for balidan or sacrifice and bodhantala or the place where bodhan is held. The old beltala has now been renovated. The puja is held here for nine days starting from Pratipad following the Brihad Nandikeswarpuran. Isin’t sound interesting? Yes, the puja is held for nine days just like the pujas of some of the bonedi houses.
The kathamo or structure of the goddess is procured from the bamboo field near Durgapur Ramchandrapur in the western part of Bally well ahead of Janmastami. Many things remained unchanged till now like the sword (khara) which was made of three types of iron and it was said that the same belonged to the Mughal period. The priest, the dhakis, the artist who built the idol and the boats used for naukabihar and immersion have remained unchanged maintaining the age-old tradition and customs. Another thing is the Chandir puthi or the manuscript of Shri Shri Chandi written on talpata roughly two hundred years old which is used during Chandipath.
The idol of Maa Durga is placed on the bedi inside the sanctum on Chaturthi. On Panchami, Maa Durga along with her children are adorned with gold ornaments and silver weapons. Goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati put on Benarasi sarees while Kartick and Ganesh put on garader jor. One thing the lion here looks like that of a horse and is white in colour. The bodhan is held following the tithi. If the same falls in Panchami, then the bodhan is held on that day at bodhantala followed by arati in the evening. Thirty six type of naibidya are offered to Maa Durga from Saptami to Nabami while on the day of Sasthi it is limited to seven only. Previously naibidya of sweets (chinir naibidya) was offered to the deity on Sandhi puja but now there is a deviation – naibidya of rice (chaler naibidya) is offered to the goddess. Different types of nadu, fruits, sweets, saree, alta and sindur (vermillion) are part of naibidya.
Nabapatrika, which is normally bathed and worshipped in the Ganges, is worshipped in the temple premises and wrapped with Benarasi or silk saree. Kumari puja is held in the morning of Saptami after the bathing of Nabapatrika. The girl who will be Kumari has to follow a stringent routine from the first day till Sasthi and she is offered bhog in the temple and, that too completely vegetarian. Here lies the uniqueness. Another thing to note here is Kamya Puja which takes place on Mahastami. The temple compound gets crowded as devotees came here to offer puspanjali on the day of Mahastami.
Previously there was a practice of animal sacrifice on the days of Saptami, Astami, Sandhi puja and Nabami; but now it was completely stopped from 2006. Currently it is limited to only chalkumro, cucumber and sugarcane and that too only on the day of Nabami. Another attraction of Nabami is the special hom which is performed while chanting hymns following Brihad Nandikeswarpuran.
On the day of Dasami the goddess is offered pantha bhat and the sound of the dhak changes. Now it is the time to leave. The priest sees the reflection of the goddess in the turmeric mixed water with the help of a mirror. Then comes baran of the goddess which is followed by kanakanjali and then pranam and lastly sindur khela. Then the deities are taken to the Ganges ghat carried on shoulders. The idols are then placed on two boats and after a short boat ride (nauka vihaar) taken to the confluence of Bally khal (Bally canal) and Ganges during sunset. The two boats moved sideways and the idol is immersed in the Ganges. After the immersion is over arati is performed in the temple premises followed by sprinkling of santir jaal. It is a memorable thing to watch.
Itihaser Patei Aithijyamoyee BuriMaa (2017 edition) by Bali Chaitalpara Aatchala Burimaar Sarodautsav Committee.
I would also like to thank to Sri Suniti Ganguly, Vice-President, Bali Chaitalpara Aatchala Burimaar Sarodautsav Committee.
How to get there:
The best way to reach there is taking the Sealdah-Dankuni local train and get down at Bally Ghat station. It is just a little more than 5 minutes walk and you will reach the puja mandap at 4/1, Bireswar Chatterjee Street, Bally, Howrah – 711 201. Alternately, you may take any bus from Shyambazar going to Bally. Get down at Bally khal stoppage and reach the mandap. Or you may even take an auto from Dunlop crossing going to Bally.
Date of Posting: 24th October, 2020.