Kolkata: “Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu Shakti Rupena Samsthita” the vibrating chants and charisma of the mantra brings a sense of joy and quiver to the heart of every Bengali worldwide.
From big ‘Mondas’ to Governor General Warren Hasting, the Pujas in Kolkata have witnessed many a transition yet retained the serene and soothing effect. However almost losing the colonial affluence the private Pujas in the city once visited by British Governor-Generals of India has still fate maintained the tradition with dedication.
Here are some of the oldest Durga Pujas in Kolkata:
1. Aatchala Puja: The centuries old Puja was started by Lakshmikanta Majumder in 1610 when Mughal emperor Jehangir was ruling Delhi. Majimdar was given a large ‘Jagir’ (land) and the title of ‘Jaigirdar’ by Mughal Geberal Man Singh during his raid of Bengal.
The puja is celebrated each year at their ancestral home in Barisha , this is termed as the oldest and perhaps the first orgonised Durga Puja in Bengal.
2. Sovabazar Raj Bari Puja: After the Nawab regime rule in Bengal suffered a humiliating defeat in the battle of Plassey, the first Durga Puja in the Shobha Bazar Choto Rajbari at 33 Raja Nabakrishna Road was initiated in the year 1757.
Eminent personalities like Ramakrishna Parmhansa, Swami Vevekanand and Kabiguru Rabindra Nath Tagore had visited the Puja on numerous occasions. Durga Puja celebration takes places in the two palaces of the Sovabazar royal family of Raja Nabakrishna Deb, founder of the Shobhabazar Rajbari. It was said that Goddess Durga Comes here to listen Music.
Around 1614 Baidyanath Mallick following an instruction in his dream acquired the idol from a hill in present day Bangladesh’s Chattagram, where the idol was worshipped secretly. He brought the idol to his home at Saptagram.
4. Baghbzaar Haldarbari Durga Puja: The centuries old Puja has an interesting origin, as per family legend, the Durga 400 year old Durga idol was found by one of the Halder family ancestor deeply buried under a fisherman’s hut. The ancestor had apparently received the idol’d location through a divine direction in his dream.
Here every visitor is greeted with ‘Narkel Naru’ (a sweet made from coconut) by the host. However the statue was left unattended and replaced by a large idol in 19th century.
5. Roy Family Puja, Behala: This Puja is dated back to 1756, it was started by Ray Bahadur Ambika Charan Roy. This puja is now celebrated at the palatial residence ‘Amarendra Bhaban’ of his third Amarendra Roy’s family. The family also celebrates Jagadhatri Puja.
6. Rani Rashmoni Family Puja: An eminent female figure in a male dominated Bengal than, Rani Rashmoni was the founder of Dakshineswar Kali temple, started the puja at her S.N. Banerjee Road residence. The Durga Puja held at 13 Rani Rashmoni Road is the one originally initiated by Rani Rashmoni herself. Thakur Ramakrishna Paramahansa has worshiped here too. The entry to this Puja is through the Free School Street. The Hazra family are in charge of this Durga Puja.This was originally the Kacharibari of Rani Rashmoni.
7. Khelat Ghosh’s Durga Puja: A Diwan in the court of Warren Hasting Khelat Ghosh was also known for his philanthropic and cultural activities. The thakurdalan of Khelat Ghosh is one of the largest in Kolkata. This premises showcases a grand dancing hall, which has been converted into Khelat Ghosh Memorial Hall.The premises was planned and designed was made by German architecture company, Martin & Burn.
8. Chatubabu Latubabu Durga Puja: The first Bengali entrepreneur who became a millionaire started orgonising the puja from the year 1770. After his demise his two sons Asuthosh Dey (Deb Sarkar) and Pramatha Nath Dey (Deb Sarkar), more commonly known as ‘Chatu babu and Latu babu’ which continues by his grandson Anath Nath Dey(Deb Sarkar) maintained he family puja. This puja is unique in the sense that long with the idol of Devi Durga Jaya and Bijaya the two companions of Parvati are also seen flanking the idol. They have no pot or veena in their hand.
9. Darjipara Mitra Bari Puja: This Puja was founded by Radhakrishna Mitra, the grandson of Durgacharn Mitra, a court jeweler of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula. This used to be one of the three top Banedi Pujas of Kolkata along with Jorasnako Dawn Bari and Sova bazar Rajbari. The rituals are interesting and very meticulously followed.
10. Girish Ghosh Family Puja: Started by famous theater personality Girish Chandr Ghosh in 1856 has been a star attraction. The major difference of this puja with other ‘Bonedi’ Pujas in Kolkata is that the Sanshi Puja has been replaced with Kalyani Puja. In Kalyani Puja , 108 earthern lamps are also being lighted just like Sandhi Puja. This tradition was started by the family patriarch Girish Chandra Ghose. It is said that the guru of Girish Chandra Ghose died during Sandhipuja. After that the practice of Sandhipuja was discontinued and Kalyani Puja was held to seek the blessings of the Goddess.
Assimilated by: Monishankar Choudhury