The origin of Durga Puja dates back to the days of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. Worship of the Goddess Durga had taken a social turn since the bygone days. The large scale celebrations, the grandeur, and the fan-fare were a part of the Puja even when Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur or Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadia organized the first Sharadiya Durgotsab in the year 1606.
When the monsoons depart and the last sound of thunder recedes, the clouds open up to an azure blue sky and a celestial staircase. Bengal’s heart fills with new anticipation as the fragrance of “sheuli” flowers and the silver softness of “kaash” flowers fills the air. It is that time of the year again when the Goddess, Ma Durga and her family come home to Earth, to Her father’s place. And there she stays for five days in autumn and the land and the people are blessed with peace, prosperity and well-being. She is supposed to go back to her residing place, Kailash (a mountain in the Himalaya) where Lord Shiva, her husband, resides most of the time. The holy waters of rivers: - Ganga, Yamuna and Brahmaputra all flow from the Himalaya snows.
“The Bisarjan Ceremony” (Immersion) of some of the famous and old house hold Durga Pujas in Kolkata
Sobha Bazar Rajbari Durga Puja
Started by Raja Nabakrishna Deb in the occasion of celebrating the victory of Lord Clive in the battle of Plassey in 1757, the Puja of Shobhabajar Rajbari is performed according to the Brihadnandikeswar Puran. The image has not been changed since the beginning of the Puja apart from maintenance.Shobhabajar Rajbari organises two different pujas in two different places - the one in the house of Gopimohan Deb is the older one, while the ancestral house of Rajkrishna Deb is the other one.
“Tarpan”, a ritual performed to let the dead ancestors know of the Puja is performed in the Dashami morning though immersion takes place in the evening. The Bisarjan ceremony (Immersion) is a spectacular affair. Women dressed in red and white saris while men wear dhotis carrying seven golden umbrellas. A musical band plays along and two Nilkantha Birds are released. Around 60 men lend their shoulders to the goddess on her way to the river. The myth behind the release of Nilkantha Birds is interesting. The first Nilkantha is set free to go to Kailash to convey the message of Devi Durga's departure to Shiva. The other Nilkantha bird is set free in the middle of the river to ensure the message has been conveyed in case the first one fails. The holy water collected after the immersion is called "Ganga Shanti Jal"(Holy water of the Ganges) which is sprinkled on everyone present.
SABORNO DURGA PUJA (Barisha)
The Durga Puja held by the Saborno family was known as “Barisha Saborno Ray Chowdhury Durgotsab”. They had a total of seven Durga Pujas in their family. Six are held at Barisha and one is held at their Birati Bari.Under the Aat Chala, i.e. the courtyard with eight pillars and a rooftop with no walls, Sutanuti, Govnidapur and Calcutta were sold to the East India Company at an amount of Rs. 1300. The legal document had the signatures of Manohar Mazumder, Roop Chand Mazumder and Charles Iyer, Job Charnock’s son-in-law. Anthony Kobiyal’s grandfather was also present as one of the witnesses. The flavour of a zamindar family can be felt even today when one visits the Chowdhury of the Saborno family during the Durga Puja.
On Dashami immersion of the Goddess Durga takes place in Babughat. Before the immersion a ritual is performed. The mirror image of the Devi is seen in a tub full of water which is placed in front of the deity. Years back immersion of the Goddess was done in Tallygunge's Karunamayi. After the immersion the purohit (priest) visits all the “sariks” (nuclear families) of the Roy Chowdhury family to sprinkle"Ganga Shanti Jal"(Holy water of the Ganges)
Laha Bari Durga Puja (Thanthania)
The 170-year-old Durga Puja at Laha Bari near Thanthania retains an old Kolkata charm.
Alok Laha tells a story about the original deity which was made out of “ashta dhatu”, an alloy of eight holy metals. The idol was stolen about a hundred years ago, but when they realised that it was not made out of gold, they dumped it half way. Luckily a family member bought the idol back home.
On Dashami the Goddess is not carried on the shoulders as is done traditionally during immersion but she is carried in the arms of men who have been performing this task as a part of family lineage. On Dashami, the day of immersion, the main gate of the Laha Bari remains closed. It is only after the immersion when someone calls out to the Goddess thrice from outside to ensure whether she is still there, the door is opened. This traditional ritual has an interesting anecdote to reveal. It was in the fourth generation of the family, Ishwar Durga Charan Laha, who was washing his face after the immersion of the Goddess was continuously disturbed by a little girl looking for some alms. Unable to complete his bath peacefully he shoos the little girl away but later when he looks for her to perhaps give her something he finds her nowhere and found the main gate open. He believed that the little girl was no one but Goddess Durga herself.
Chatu Babu Latu Babu Durga Puja
Though this Puja was founded by Ramdulal Deb in 1780, it has become famous in the name of Chhatubabu (Ashutosh Deb) and Latubabu (Pramatha Nath Deb).The Deb family has the ritual of releasing 'Nilkantha birds'. 'Nilkantha' is a bird as dark as a Kuck-koo or sometimes grey in color. It's neck is golden or chocolate in colour. Its feathers are blue and its back is blue too.
Durga Puja of the Mukherjee household ((Ishwar Jagat Ram Mukherjee)
Durga Puja of the Mukherjee household started about 277 years ago. Ishwar Jagat Ram Mukherjee was the founder of the Durga Puja of the Mukherjee household. About 100 years ago Ishwar Jadunath Mukherjee made a Durga Idol of gold
Immersion of the Goddess is unique at this household. The 'Kala Bou' or the nabapatrika is immersed in the water. Before immersion the idol of the Goddess is covered with a red cloth. After immersion the red cloth is removed.
Darjipara Mitra Family
This Puja was started by Radhakrishna Mitra in 1870, and he shifted the Puja from Benaras to Kolkata.The family follows the same rituals as their founder but with one exception: due to the ban on putting birds in cages, the custom of releasing the Nilkantha during immersion has been discontinued.
Pathuriaghata Durga Puja
The techala Durga Puja of Pathuriaghata is about 163 years old and is one of the oldest Pujas amongst the old aristocratic families of Calcutta. A unique feature of this Puja is the ablution of the Nabapatrika in the house, instead of in the Ganges as is the usual practice.
Immersion, years ago was done on two boats. Immersion is done by carrying the idol on the shoulders. 'Nilkantha' birds are set free.
Mitra Household (Padda Pukur) Durga Puja
The frame work of Devi Durga is worshipped during Ratha Yatra. This frame work is then used for making the idol. After immersion of Goddess Durga this framework is taken back and is again used for the year after.
Hatkhola Dutta Bari Durga Puja
The old house of the Duttas on Neemtala Ghat Street is a tragic example of the falling economic conditions of some of the oldest zamindars in Bengal. Once one of the most important and magnificent pujas in Kolkata (started around 1716) which was famous for its traditional “Daker Saaj” and earthen jewelleries of the idol, the ceremony is now being just maintained by the present of the Duttas.This family too has the 'Nilkantha' ritual. One of the birds are set free on the day of immersion while the other one is let out after the immersion. It is considered a good omen when the second bird flies homeward.
Bhowanipur Mullick Bari Durga Puja
After immersion, according to custom of the house, the eldest family member serve "siddhi" to the rest of the family and bless them with "Astadurba" or eight varieties of grasses.
Mukherjee parivar (Dum Dum)Durga Puja
There was also a practice of releasing "Nilkantha Bird" but according to the government act it is forbidden now. On Dashami, the male members of the family are revered by the 'barondala' of the Goddess. It marks a new beginning for a prosperous and happy future.
Kolootola Roy Bari ((opposite the Medical College Hospital)
Ma Durga is still carried on shoulders of the devotees to the ghat for immersion.
Thanthania Dutta Bari
The pratima here is in Ekchala again, in a magnificent Thakurdalan which is about 150 years old. The presence of Lord Shiva amongst Devi Durga and her children is the interesting part about the pratima. The image is decorated by traditional “Daker Saaj”. It is said that there was a tradition of releasing a Nilkantha bird in this occasion which has been discontinued.