SUDHAKAR DAS, 2020-10-16

Kolkata is arguably the epicenter of the Durga Puja festival since it’s inception as Rajbari Pujo way back in 1610, actively supported by Britishers ruling India then. Gradually over time more and more Rajbaris came into prominence and started celebrating in their traditional way with ample display of wealth. Later pujas started being celebrated at the Sarbojanin ( for all ) platform and assumed gigantic scale, expanded exponentially to reach every nook and corner of West Bengal and some other states of the country. Today Puja is being celebrated in many countries across the globe.

With the Bengalis embracing English education with all seriousness and enthusiasm, many had to leave their hometown in want of better jobs elsewhere in the country, during the British rule. Delhi was not to be left alone, many people shifted to Delhi in good numbers. And in 1911, at the Coronation Durbar in Delhi, King George’s 5 announced the momentous decision to transfer the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. With this, a sizeable Bengali population, working in various government offices were shifted and relocated to Delhi. These educated Bengalis formed a close-knit community in Delhi. Traditionally Bengalis have a built-in bent of mind of carrying the culture wherever they travel.

On the expected lines, Bengalis started celebrating Durga Puja in the year 1910, in a humble way in Delhi at Roshanara Kali Mandir, near Nai Sarak as ” Baroyari Puja “, was performed by ritually on an earthware pot, as a symbol of Devi. This practice continued in 1911 also. Enthusiasm rose high and from 1912 onwards ” Pratima Puja” was performed. Interestingly in the absence of any Protima artisans at Delhi, the Pratima was brought from Varanasi. All the necessary arrangements were organized by a Christan gentleman. Railway employees had a bigger role in the transportation of “Pratima” from Varanasi to Delhi. The *practice continued until 1925. From 1926 onwards artisans started making Idols at Delhi itself.

Since the inception “Delhi Durga Puja Samiti” focused celebrations on the typical traditional style of Rajbaris of Bengal. Rajbaris have a tradition of erecting” One Frame Protima ” with stylish aristocratic garments with silver and gold linings, eye-catching glitters displaying traditional aura, huge earrings, and glittering overhead crown. The four days Puja finds all rituals being practiced here like Bodhana, Adhivasa, Sandhi Pujo, Pushpanjali, Homa and Bhog, Aarti, and Sindhoor Khala besides a host of cultural programs enacted with a focus on traditional art. After the four day celebrations, on Dasami day the goddess is finally placed on a decked bullock cart for immersion to Yamuna river with men and women chanting ” Durga Ma Ki Jai” and ” Asche Bachar abar hobe ” with a battery of drummers beating drums in perfect rhythm, a heart-touching tearful departure of Goddess to her parents’ place. Kashmiri gate Puja committee celebrated the centenary in the year 2009, a landmark achievement for this heritage Puja. Presently the Puja is held on the premises of ” Bengali Sr Secondary School “, Alipur Road, Delhi. Time and again many eminent persons of National interest visited this puja venue including Netaji Subash Chandra Bose in 1935 and Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1969 as PM of India.

Though many Pujas have come up at the National capital ( close to 900), some of them are big bannered and high budgeted, but still, this puja remains the most sought after, maintaining it’s Numero uno status in and around Delhi.

Wish this puja scales to new heights with many more milestones in the offing, in their heritage style of course.