Advertising professional Sreyasi Chaudhuri takes us to her family home in Amadpur, Burdawan where Durga puja is being celebrated for the last 300 years
‘Sarva Manggala Maanggalye, Shive Sarvaartha Saadhike’
– Happiness at all levels, at all times and success at the end of your pursuit
These words ring in my ear each time I lose myself in the dreams of clear blue skies of sarat, the intoxicating smell of the shuili flowers and the gentle sway of the kash. Add to it the beats of the dhak and any Bengali will know that it is time to celebrate!
As the blissful days of autumn set in, the whole atmosphere is filled with an unmistakable joy. Waking up on a crisp autumn dawn to the mellifluent chants of Mahisasuramardini, is something which we all look forward to throughout the year – the Divine Mother with her full family regalia, is on her way. The ecstasy that her arrival brings can be sensed everywhere.
Just like everyone, the advent of Durga Puja fills me with an excitement that I keep bubble-wrapped inside me for a whole year. One of my fondestmemories of childhood is the journey from Kolkata to my native house in Amadpur, Bardhaman. This ancient land with its lonely fields, rickety bridges over streams of water, banana palms waving their heads against the clear skies and the swaying bamboo fields, is my abode for a few days every year during sharodutsav. But here, Durga puja starts well before Mahalaya. On the day of RathJatra, the headpandit takes some earth from the front wheel of the chariot and puts the clump of mud on the idol’s frame. This is when the village springs into the festive mood, some two months before the actual puja starts.
One of the grandest building in this far off place, is our puja dalan or the building in which all the pujas take place. The white colour of the place rightfully depicts the tranquil state of our minds as we enter the dalan. The courtyard in front has echoed the sounds of the holy mantras and the reflected the light from the ‘mongolaroti’ (arti performed at day break) for nearly 300 years. The white pillars reflect the sun at dawn and creates a mystic and peaceful surrounding throughout the day. The actual mandap has 5 outer arches and 3 inner arches. Inside sits our idol decked with the traditional gold and silver ornaments. The other three sides of the dalan house many rooms which are used by different members of the family for the festivities.
The old world charm of the place still remains as the whole of Chaudhuri Bari goes down to this place every year for those few days that celebrate the auspicious occasion of Devi Ma coming home. One of the most auspicious ritual on those particular days is the Sondhi puja, which is essentially the time Ma Durga slayed the buffalo demon Mohisashur.
It is a beautiful custom where in 108 diyas or oil lamps are lit by the men of the house.The background is filled with the rhythmic chants of the pandit as he offers 108 white lotuses to the Divine Mother.The whole village, including our dalan descends into silence. In order to let the people know that it is time for the sondhi puja, a very unique tradition is followed in Amadpur. The guards light 3 small noise crackers in succession. The first indicates that the holy man has taken his seat and the family has gathered, the second indicates that in 5 minutes the puja will begin and everyone is expected to be maintain silence and the third one is burst right before the actual puja starts. It is indeed an alluring custom that we all look forward to.
Just listening to the mantras being chanted by the priests while we sit on the mandapand weave garlands for the deities, is something that fills us with a tranquility that we search for throughout the year. Thinking about the drum beats echoing in our mandap during the aaroti gives me gooseflesh on lazy afternoons. It is during these day dreaming sessions, that I start wondering about the actual origin of Durga Pujo.
Apparently, the Durga Pujo that we celebrate during this time of the year is akalbodhon or an untimely invocation. As legend goes, Lord Rama in a desperate bid trying to defeat Ravana invoked Durga at this time of the year, hence Durga Pujoin sarat.
Other traditions say that this was a means for zaminders to gloat about their power and riches, as they were the only ones who could afford this lavish celebration. But times have changed since then and pujo is no longer just about tradition. It has evolved into a global celebration that involves the warmth of togetherness, the joy of coming together as a society, the love for life and of course, love for food.
Pujo in Kolkata celebrates so many different aspects of life. The different themed pujos held throughout the city depicts issues from every day life or even global concerns. These opulent tents are all but temporary, yet the large open art gallery that the city becomes, captures our hearts and minds.
On Doshomi when the idol’s face hits the water of the dighi in my ancestral home, people around raise the pitch, ‘Ashche bochora bar hobe’ (the coming year again we will celebrate).For us Bengalis, Akadoshi is the new beginning. It marks the beginning of another year’s wait to see Her beautiful face, talk to her as we stand face to face.
Be it in my gram Bangla or the lively streets of Kolkata, Durga Pujo is our identity. It is like a little magic that we carry with us for the longest time.