The smell of Shiulis is already in the air. Autumn has received an invitation from the Bengalis. Above all, Goddess Durga must have already begun packing for herself and her family’s entourage to her maiden home. Have you planned to witness any Bonedi Bari Puja yet?
This is a course of action that takes place every year in the mind of every thought-prone Bengali. To us, Durga Puja is practically a carnival that we await for every year till we die. Irrespective of whatever the circumstances life throws at us and wherever on earth we are, Durga Puja celebrations are inescapable.
However, lately, in and around Kolkata, the fetish for Durga Puja celebrations have become more theme and budget-oriented. Creativity is certainly an USP of the Bengali cult. People, from all corners of the world, recognize Bengalis for their intelligence quotient. But then again, it should not lead to a shift of the prime focus. It should always be on the rituals and authenticity of “Akal Bodhan”, the very cause of the celebration.
Thus, we decided to throw some spotlight on some traditional Durga Pujas of Kolkata. They, amidst all the trends of modernism, have still kept the taste of rich antiquity alive.
Let us introduce you to the five magnificent "bonedi bari" pujas in and around Kolkata. You must include them in your list of places to visit this Sharodiya.
The opulence of ornaments is a traditional asset to the Goddess Durga of the Shib Krishna Daw Bonedi Bari Puja. 150 years back this Durga Puja was supposed to be based on an investment of over 2500 INR which, in present-day value, is certainly lakhs of Indian currency. The abundant space in the Thakur Dalan of Daw Bari is the ideal pedestal for the ‘chalchitra.’ It is made of gold, emeralds, and other precious stones. The maroon Benarasi clad Goddess Durga looks ethereal on such a backdrop. In the year 1840, Gokul Krishna Daw had begun the traditional Durga Puja in their Jorasanko premises. Since then the Puja has been a prime attraction to North Kolkata residents and beyond.
Pathuriaghata Khelat Ghosh Bonedi Bari Puja is all about a marble courtyard of 85 feet and a luxurious dance hall. With these, it holds up to the pride of the eclectic tastes of Bengalis in antiques. Khelat Ghosh’s collection starts with a sophisticated century-old Belgian glass chandelier and a Thomasson Chronometer grandfather clock. This Chronometer grandfather's clock was imported from London in the year 1800 AD. They, further, add up to the main attractions of this place. It is one of the most exquisite palatial mansions that hosts Durga Puja most exuberantly in Kolkata, today. This 170-year-old Durga Puja is famous for the ritual of bathing Goddess Durga with water collected from ‘7 seas and 13 rivers’ and 12 fruits, on Mahasaptami dawn. As a result, there can be no better name for Elegance.
There are few ancestral Durga Pujas in Kolkata which celebrate Goddess Durga in her ‘Haragouri’ avatar. The Laha Bari Bonedi Bari Puja is one such Bonedi Bari of Kolkata who worships Goddess Durga in a sitting posture. This is not the conventional way as she is sitting on the lap of Lord Shiva with her beautiful eyes closed. Moreover, her expression of blushing is quite clear on her face. The ashta-dhatu idol has a gold-like shimmer and is over 200 years old. The Laha family offers twenty different kinds of homemade sweets comprising of jaggeries, coconuts, dry-fruits, kheer, milk puddings, honey, and other delicious constituents to Goddess Durga, in honor of her homecoming.
A few decades ago, before the formation of the Animal Rights and Welfare Rules, if during Durga Bisharjan, two Nilkantha birds flying in two directions was the confirmation of Darjipara Mitra Bari Bonedi Bari Puja. It is an important ritual of their Durga Puja celebration. One of these birds was supposed to fly to Kailasha, to Lord Shiva, to acknowledge him that his wife has begun her journey towards him from Earth, and the other would fly to the Mitra Bari bearing the promise from the Goddess Durga that she would return again to her maiden home a year later. Durga Charan Mitra, who was the court jeweler of Siraj-Ud-Daulah was the one to start this puja in the year 1809. The Mutchouri Chala, the freshly designed attires of Durga Maa, and also the opulent Bijaya Dashami feast makes this Durga Puja a prime attraction for shoots and documentaries.
Can you imagine firing canons at the time of Durga Arati in the evening of Ashtami through Sandhya Puja? Certainly there is no need to travel to the colonial ages, we are talking about a scene you would see at Narasimha Daw Bonedi Bari Puja at Vivekananda Road, each year. The foundational gun business of the Daw legacy, with which they even competed with internationally based British merchants, begun in the year 1835. The firing of the 17-inch cannon to give a gun salute to Maa Durga on her yearly farewell on the Mahashtami and Bijaya Dashami evenings is a must-do practice since 1859. Winchester Repeating Arms Company was the one to manufacture it which is still in use.
Thus, to conclude, here is a note to the entire cult of heritage thirsty Bengalis, who whine that Durga Puja has lost its antique charm. These palatial Bonedi Bari Pujas are maintaining their responsibilities of preserving the class of the Bengali Cult. All you need to do this Durga Puja is to pack your haversack for the day and begin the drive.