"Durga", in Sanskrit means "She who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach." Goddess Durga is a form of Sakti worshiped for her gracious as well as terrifying aspect. Mother of the Universe, she represents the infinite power of the universe and is a symbol of a female dynamism. The manifestation of Goddess Durga is said to emerge from her formless essence and the two are inseparable.
Amongst all these Devi idols, here today, we will throw light on a very special old, traditional and Family Puja of the Mukherjees in Behala, Kolkata who possess and worship Durga Maa in their own house, made of pure gold… She is woshiiped in their own House hold mandir on daily basis by their hould hold priest on 11 A.M. to 12.P.M. daily and once in the evening. All can pay homage to Debi maa as the mandir is opened to all from morning till evening .....
HISTORY OF ORIGIN
The Puja of the Mukherjees are running in its 237 years. There is an interesting story behind its origin. Sri Jagatram Mukherjee, an early ascendant of the Mukherjees, once went with his family to attend Durga Puja in his in-law’s house, the Halder family of Behala. But due to some circumstances, they were not greeted in their expected warmness and so they returned back in their own house on Ashtami. His only daughter, Jagattarini felt so insulted and sad that she cried, insisted and demanded to her father to arrange Durga Puja in their family then and there only. Astonishingly Jagatram was confused whether he could do the same at all or not. However, on Nabami, Durga Puja was held in their premise in a small scale in “Debi Ghot” and painting in Canvas- “Pot-Chitra” and offered “Khichuri - Bhog” to Devi Maa with Kadai Daal. This tradition of Bhog is still going on till date. Since that time till as on date, this Puja is also famous as “Jagattarini Durga Puja.”
EVOLUTION OF THE TRADITION
Sri Jagatram Mukherjee, a descendent of Shree Harsha Dev, a renowned courtier of Ballal Sen originally lived in Jikargachha Sharsha village of Jessore district, now in Bangladesh. They migrated in the area of Chankya Mouja in Barrackpore in the late 18th century. There is story behind their permanent shifting in Behala. While dueling in Barrackpore once it was supposed and accepted by the “Kabiraj”(household herbal medical practitioner) and other family member that jagatram had died as he had no sign of life for a certain period of time after the declaration of his death the family member with mournful tears and heart had adrift his body in the holy Ganges, but in utter bewilderment and by the grace of God he got back his life after his arrival at the ghat of the Adi Ganges of south Calcutta .Keeping in pace with the tradition of the “Kulin Brahmin” family of that time he had to live a new life which would be unknown of the former world. So after his rebirth he settled down in Behala. To maintain the “koulinya pratha” he married the daughter of the renowned Halder family of Behala. In 1768, they shifted in Behala. In 1772, Puja began in the Mukherjee household in “Ghote-Pote” and in 1773; Puja in clay idol was started. Later, Sri Jadunath Mukherjee, the great grandson of Sri Jagatram Mukherjee, was very much inspired by the “Sonar Durga” (Durga Idol of Gold) of Dhaka Dhakeshwari Mandir, decided to make a gold idol of Maa for their household Puja. He held a good position in service in East India Company, at that time. Finally, in 1869, in the path of the Tantra, Puja stared in their Behala household in Golden Durga. The “Bharadwaj” priest family of the Mukherjee house hold is originally a derivation of the priest family of Kanauj (former Kanpur) whom bears the accountability to have their origin in Kashmir.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DEITY
The hour of the Goddesses is at hand and family waits for these days expectantly. Sonar Durga Maa is about 2ft in height. She is made up of “ashta dhatu” (a mixture of eight metals). The ten-handed goddess is carried by the lion. The lion bears a special characteristic. It is called “Ashwadaba Singha”, which means it bears the front portion that of a lion and the back, that of a horse. The idol has an old fashioned and traditional shaping. It has large eyes spread up to the ears. The Golden Durga is adorned with a huge bulk of gold jewelleries during these days. Formerly she was alone on lion’s back. But now she has her four children beautifully and artistically crafted in the brass “chalchitra” (the background base of the idol). No one is assured about the weight of the gold She possesses but it takes two people to pick Her up.
The Mukherjee Family offers a special type of Bhog to Maa. They have a wide range of variety in their recipes. I these three days, in mandatory order, “Khichuri-Bhog” is offered to Maa in the morning, “Rice-Bhog” in the daytime and “Luchi-Bhog” in the night respectively. The main food for Maa (naibedya) for these three days is rice in a huge mounted shape with sandesh (a kind of dry sweet of Bengal) on its top. This food is known as “mathar khabar”.
In these days of Puja, Rice Bhog is offered to Maa with the assortment of Shukto( mixed vegetable gravy-curry, eight types of bhaja (fry), cauliflower curry, Machh bhaja ( fish fry), Machher jhol, Chhechki and Ghonto of arum , ( a special Bengali household food), Shol Machh-Pora ( a tasty dish of roasted living fish, with masala and oil) , chutney of papaya and gourd.
The Rituals of Durga Puja
The festival of Durga Puja starts with Mahalaya, the first phase of the waxing moon in the month of Ashwin. The male members offer prayers to their dead ancestors in their “thakur dalan”, in a ritual called Tarpan. In Mukherjee house, “Chandipathh” starts on its next day It is said that Durga Puja gets started from this day only, in their family.. The main Puja is for three days – Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, and Maha Nabami. The Puja rituals are long and very detailed and complicated. Three days of Mantras, Shlokas, Arati and offerings – are done by their expert family priest.
It is believed that on this day Goddess Durga arrives to the mortal world from her heavenly abode, accompanied by her children. She is welcomed with much fanfare amidst the beats of dhak. Unveiling the face of the idol is the main ritual on this day. This family has a special “Bodhan” since decades. The “aakh” of the Puja is prepared in the house of family priest. On the evening, all the female members go to their house with dhak, dholak and music to bring the special decorated “aakh” to the Puja house as if they are bringing their daughter with love, merriment and celebration from her in-law’s house to her paternal house for some days and then the ritual of “Bodhan” starts.
Saptami is the first day of Durga Puja. Kola Bow is given a pre-dawn bath. This is an ancient ritual of worshiping nine types of plants. They are together worshiped as a symbol of the goddess. The main Saptami Puja follows Kalparambho and Mahasnan of Maa.
The day began with a recital of Sanskrit hymns of the devotees offered anjali to the goddess. As the day wore on, once upon a time, it was time for the important Sandhi Puja, which marks the inter-linking of the Maha Ashtami and Maha Nabami but due to some supernatural incident happened in their family, more than a hundred years back, Sandhi Puja is ceased.
This is the concluding day of Durga Puja. The main Nabami Puja begins after the end of Sandhi Puja. “Kumari Puja” or the worship of little girls as the mother goddess was a special part of the rituals observed here. The family holds a special “Sadhaba Puja” where it is believed if this Puja is done sacredly, then all the female members of the family will pass away to Heaven being “Sadhaba” (they pray that they precede their husband in death ). Previously there was a tradition of “buffalo-sacrifice” but now it is replaced by the sacrifice of the goat, gourd and sugar cane. The Nabami Bhog is offered to the goddess. This is later partaken in as Prasad by the devotees. On this day all are invited to have the Bhog Prasad, irrespective of caste and creed. So, this Puja is also known as “Bhat-e Bhabani Puja” (Puja with endless rice for the devotees).
is a lightly fermented rice-based dish consumed) supplemented with curd, flattened-rice and murky (a kind of sweet). With the immersion, the festivities come to an end. The immersion ceremony is called "Bishorjon".
After the three days of Puja, in Dashami, in the last day, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. But as it is a Golden Durga, so the “Ghot’ and the “kalaBou” is immersed on the Dashami morning in their own family pond, nearby in a grand send-off as if they are bidding farewell to their own daughter to her husband’s abode.. The family have a Bhog of “panta- bhat” (
This festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. The yearly visit of the goddess is thought to bring well-being and happiness to the people. Bengalis go back to their mundane lives to wait another years to welcome the goddess. If one wants to visit Dedi Maa ,anytime of the year, one has to come down in Behala- Tram Depot Stoppage and 3 minutes walking distance from D.H.Road through Brahmo Samaj Road to the Mandir.This information was gathered basically with full cooperation from Sri Tapan Mukherjee, the 30th descendant of Sri Harsha Dev.