A number of families in Janai and adjoining Baksha in Chanditala II block of Hooghly district celebrate Durga Puja with great pomp and splendour even today. Some of the pujas are pretty old. This year I decided to cover four such pujas – two each in Janai and Baksha, though there are other pujas also.
Janai Rajbari (Kali Babur Bari):
One of the prominent mansions of the area is Janai Rajbari or popularly known as Kali Babur Bari. Kaliprasad Mukhopadhyay, a Dewan under East India Company built the Janai Rajbari together with a seven-pillared thakurdalan which comes alive during the days of the Durga Puja.
Before entering the Rajbari, there are two aatchala Shiva temples on the left dedicated to Kaliprasadeshwar and Khosaleshwar built in 1234 Bangabda (1827 A.D). The temple of Khosaleshwar was re-establilshed on 18th Aashin, 1358 (October 1951). The dates have been written on a stone plaque at the front wall of the temple. It was said that Kaliprasad Mukhopadhyay built the Shiva temples during the construction of the Rajbari.
Durga Puja is a very old affair here. When I visited there on the afternoon of Sasthi this year, I found that the preparations were in full swing. A number of visitors have also come to witness the puja. The protima is of traditional ekchala. It is one of the oldest Durga Pujas of the region.
There are two special rituals associated with this puja – Aparajita puja and Beranjali. The former is performed on the day of Dasami before bidding farewell to the goddess while in the latter, the members of the family line up in descending order of their age and offer their final prayer to Maa Durga.
Uma Villa or Bajar Bari (Janai)
Another house which celebrates Durga Puja in Janai is Uma Villa or Bajar Bari. As you enter through the beautiful red-coloured gate, you will find the house. There still exists remains of gas lamp structures on both the sides of the entrance.
The name Bajar Bari is written on a stone plaque on the right of the main gate. The house is well-maintained. Just like the other bonedi families the protima here is of traditional ekchala style.
The uniqueness here is that Durga Puja is celebrated with lantern lights just like the way the puja would happen in the yester years. But the lantern lights were lighted on the day of Sasthi, and that too after the Bodhan is performed. I was pretty lucky to see the lanterns in action.
Chowdhury Bari, Baksha:
Baksha, an adjoining village of Janai houses the Chowdhury Bari where Durga Pujo and Dolyatra are celebrated equally with great pomp and splendour. A beautiful entrance will greet you inside. The front portion of the house is unique in the sense that it has three doors with four windows designed in such a way that a door is followed by two windows in its left and right. The main entrance is somewhat bigger with a pillar on each side. There is provision for seating arrangement on both sides of the main entrance.
According to Shri Susanta Chowdhury, a family member the puja dates back to Rajaram Chowdhury and, that too more than two-and-a-half centuries back. The dalan is of the same age as of the puja. There are a number of unique things associated with this Durga Puja. Firstly, Maa Durga has four hands instead of ten. She holds trisul, sword, shield and snake.
Secondly, instead of Jaya and Bijoya, there exists Radha and Krishna in the same structure of Maa Durga. Krishna is placed on the top of Ganesh and Radha on the top of Kartick. They are placed in such a way that they cannot witness when the sacrifice is performed. Thirdly, Kalyani Puja is held on the day of Aastami for the general welfare of the family members. Lastly, during the time of bisarjan or immersion two masal or lighted torches will accompany the goddess maintaining the age-old custom.
Earlier there happened to be animal sacrifice but presently only fruits are sacrificed. I was told that there are a total of nine families belonging to the Chowdhuris and they are divided into baro, mojo and choto and Kumari puja is held by each in their respective households on the days of Saptami, Aastami and Nabami. Hom is performed on all the days of the puja. The puja is held according to the tantric rituals. The idol is prepared in the thakurdalan starting from the day of Nandautsav.
Mitra Bari, Baksha:
Another old puja of Baksha is the Durga Puja of Mitra family. There is a thakurdalan which has received a fresh coat of paint due to Durga Puja. But when I arrived there I found that the protima has not reached till then.
Another thing I would like to mention here is the presence of a nabaratna temple dedicated to Raghunath Jiu built in 1792 by Bhrukutram Mitra.
That apart there are also houses where Durga Puja is celebrated but owing to shortage of time I could not cover them in this post.
To visit Janai and Baksa:
Janai can be reached by both road and rail. The nearest railway station is Janai Road in Howrah-Barddhaman chord line. From the station take either a toto or an auto and visit the houses. Do not forget to taste Monohara, a famous sweet which had its origin in Janai. You can find them in the sweet shops located near the station.
Date of posting: 12th October, 2021.