After my blog post “Durga Puja of “Bonedi Families” at Kolkata” became immensely popular among viewers, many have asked me to start writing blog posts on such bonedi families of West Bengal outside Kolkata. Members of many such families have also e-mailed me their details and asked me to visit their places.
Since no one is sponsoring my travel for writing such blog posts, I decided to start with Howrah. Howrah is nearer to Kolkata than many other districts. At Howrah, many age-old Durga Puja gets celebrated in the residence of many bonedi families. In this blog-post, I will start with describing Pujas of few such families residing at Shibpur, Andul, Salkia and Panchla. This list will increase with the passing of time.
Although the places mentioned here are well-connected with proper mode of transportation, one can take a driving tour to visit these sectors during Durga Puja. Say one can drive to Andul and visit the Pujas there and then move on to Shibpur if time and energy permits.
Although the financial condition is not affluent as it was in earlier days (mainly because after independence the Zamindari system was abolished), yet these families still go on performing Durga Puja with dedication maintaining all the rituals. The Pujas are all of 100+ years, some even 200+ and 300+ years old. All family members gather to celebrate Durga Puja with pomp and show as an annual get-together. From a 6-year-old kid to an 80-year veteran all participate in this family endeavor year after year.
I hope the viewers will like it as much as my earlier blog post on Bonedi Baris.
“BONEDI BARIR DURGA PUJA OF HOWRAH” – THE LIST
Distance: 15.3 km via Andul Road from Rabindra Sadan
1. DUTTA CHAUDHURY FAMILY (aka Chaudhury Bari) DURGA PUJA
Chaudhury Para Lane, Off Andul Road, Andul, Howrah, West Bengal – 711302
( Direction: Take any bus from Rabindra Sadan to Andul. Get down on Andul Bazar Bus stop. Walk for about 300 metres, until you get Andul Byam Samitee on your left. Take the lane beside it which is Chaudhury Para Lane. This will lead you to the Durga dalan of Dutta Chowdhury. The lane is quite narrow. Alternatively, as a better option, you can drive further, cross Kishori Oil Mill on the left and take the next narrow lane which leads to Blue Bell Nursing home. Park your car here. If you are driving an SUV, park it on the main road beside Kishori Oil Mill. Just opposite to the nursing home is a pond. Take the path beside the pond and then turn right. A serpentine lane will take you to the Thakur Dalan. )
As per information received from the present descendants of the family, Andul Dutta Chaudhury Family are the descendants of Shri Purushottam Dutta belonging to Bharadwaja Gotro. He was one among the 5 kshatriyas who was sent to Bengal along with 5 brahmins to re-establish administrative control in Bengal. They were sent in response to the invitation from King Hemanta Sen of Bengal to the then King Adisur of Kannauj (UP). At that time, Bengal was under Sen Dynasty, that started in 1095 AD. After arriving in Bengal, Purushottam Dutta settled down at Ballygram located on the bank of the Bhagirathi river. Eventually, the family earned the name of Bally Dutta Bari. Purushottam‘s great-grandson, Tekri Dutta moved from Ballygram to Andul (Howrah). He was bestowed with the surname Chaudhury by the then ruler of Delhi. Tekri Dutta established Andul Dutta Chaudhury clan. This family afterward became the first “Zamindar“ family of Andul.
This Andul Dutta Chaudhury family had got connections with many other bonedi baris of Kolkata. Sova Bazar Raj Bari was the son-in-law house for this Dutta Chaudhury Bari.
At a later stage, Andul Dutta Chaudhury family broke up. This was due to some internal controversy between three brothers, Ramsharan Dutta Chaudhury, Gobindasharan Dutta Chaudhury and Harisharan Dutta Chaudhury.
Shri Ramsharan Dutta Chaudhury stayed back at their house at Andul. The annual worshiping of Sri-Sri Raj-Rajeshvari Mata was initiated into this family by Ramasharan Datta Chaudhury in 1570 AD at a hay-brick made atchala on the bank of the Sarasvati river in Andul, by strictly obeying Tantra rituals.
Among the interesting rituals observed by the family, one is satru bali (killing the enemy). Here a human figure made with powdered rice is placed in the hollow of a banana tree trunk and sacrificed. Among the main offerings to the deity are sweets like Khaja and Agamonda. Agamonda is made of coconut and kheer and is ultimately decorated with mewa and sugar candy.
2. BHATTACHARYA FAMILY ( aka Premikh Bhawan ) DURGA PUJA
Premikh Bhawan (Majher bari), Premik Sarani, Daksina para, Bandha Ghat, Andul, Howrah, West Bengal – 711302
(Direction: Take any bus from Rabindra Sadan to Andul. Get down on reaching Andul Bazar Bus stop opposite to Andul Super Shopping Mall. On the side you descent there will be a narrow lane through a crowded marketplace. Walk straight through this road bypassing a pond on your right. The huge but run down Andul Rajbari will fall on your left in front of an open ground. If you are coming with your own transport, to avoid the crowded bazar road you may take the road beside Purbapra Bus stop (just one stop before Andul Bus Stop). In that case, the Andul Rajbari will fall on your right.
Cross the open ground, passing by a rundown wall and a gate and you will come on the road facing the Rajbari. Head on the road opposite the gate, crossing a small bridge over a canal, which was once the Saraswati River. Walk straight passing the Prabhu Jagatbandhu College on your right and walking for another 400 meters, you will reach another small bridge over the canal on your right. Cross the bridge and turn right. You will reach two temples and a Dolmancha on your left. The lane just before the temples is Premikh Sarani. If you have a car, park it on one side of the road ( there is a small market in the area) and enter the lane. The gate of Premikh Bhawan will fall on your right.)
From the family members, I came to know of the close ties between the Dutta Chaudhury and Bhattacharya family. It is the second oldest Durga Puja in Andul. Hence, I added it to the list in 2017.
The year was 1650 AD. The time was not favorable for the above mentioned Dutta Chowdhury family of Andul as they had failed to find a suitable Brahmin priest who could perform all the rituals and ceremonies of their family with utmost faith and dedication. After sending several messengers around and far away from their locality, the family members located a Bhattacharya family at N’para suburb of Chinsurah in Hooghly district. This family was a descendant of Battanarayana Bandhopadhyay, who was a kannaujiya daksina-rarhiya sagnika Brahmina.
Raghunatha Tarka Bagish, a member of the Bhattacharya family heartily welcomed the call. He reached Andul in 1651 with his family by boat from Chandannagar. The Dutta Chowdhury family donated him a piece of land on the western bank of the Saraswati River. They Bhattacharya family settled there. Raghunatha became the patronage of Sandilya clan Bhattacharya family of Andul. Due course of time he became kula-guru and sova-pundit of the zamindar family.
From the year 1657 Raghunatha started the annual worshipping of Goddess Mahishamardini at his family’s thakurdalan at Andul. It was then in a hay-thatched atchala. The present thakurdalan had been renovated in the year 2000. Tantra shiddha-sadhaka Bhairavi Charana Bhattacharjee, one of a lineal descendant is the founder of Shankari Kali Bari at Chowdhury para in Andul. Bhairavi Charana became so well-known for his erudition and scholarship that the place Andul began to understand as ‘Daksina Navadeepa’. He used to do his sadhana, locked on his pancha-mundi ashana in an underground cave close to his home at Andul. The cave can still be seen even today, a well-maintained one, located opposite to Jadunath Chowdhury’s Sarasvati river ghat just opposite to the temples. Around 1770 AD he brought in a one-stone samsan Kaali bigraha from the sacred Manikarnika ghat and established Her as the tutelary deity of Andul at Chowdhury para in 1771 AD. Goddess here resides as Shiddhesavari. He named the deity ‘Shankari’, after his beloved daughter who died of a fever at a tender age of eleven. ‘Shankari Kaali Bari’ is a shidha-peetham of Andul. He also renamed his family’s annual Durga worship as ‘Shankari Durgotsava’.
Mahendranatha Bhattacharya a descendant of this family became a great poet having composed many hymns and songs for jatra. He became well-known as ‘Premikh Maharaj’ after composing a large number of devotional songs in praise of Goddess Kali. He was contemporary of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Some of his songs represented a fusion of Shakta and Vaishnavism thought processes. He founded the noted ‘Andul Kali-kirtana samiti’. For his popularity, gradually the name ‘Majher Bari’ of the house got switched over to ‘Premikh Bhawan’. From the family members I came to know that Swami Vivekananda’s mother was a disciple of Premikh Maharaj. Swami Vivekananda visited this house at Andul twice in his lifetime.
3. KUNDU CHAUDHURY FAMILY DURGA PUJA
P.C. Roy Road, Near Raksha Kali Mandir, Mohiari, Andul, Howrah, West Bengal – 711302
( Direction: Take any bus from Rabindra Sadan to Andul. Get down after reaching Andul Bazar Bus stop. On your opposite side will be the Andul Super Shopping Mall. Cross it and enter the next lane beside it which will fall on your right. In the case of having difficulty in locating the lane, ask locals as to which way is Mohiari. Walk straight through the serpentine line which is the Mohar Tai Pukur Road. After few steps, you will cross a fusion architecture building on your right which is the Mohiari Kundu Chowdhury Institution. Go further straight for another 200 metres to hit straight the Raksha Kali Mandir. Take a right from here to get into the P.C. Roy Road. A walk of hardly two minutes brings you straight to the huge mansion of Kundu Chowdhury family. The exterior of the building is of pink colour. )
The family of Kundu Chowdhury is one of the few Bonedi family who organizes Durga puja twice a year, once during Basanti puja in the month of Chaitra and again during Akal Bodon in Aswhin. Though the ancestor of the family Kushai Ram alias Kushai Dev settled at Mohiari as early as on 1745, it was only in 1816 that the most famous descendant of the family Ramkanta Kundu Chowdhury built up the present palatial residence of the family along with adjacent two Shiva temple. The date on the foundation stone of one of the temples reveals the year of establishment. The family’s origin was actually from Tamluk at Medinipur.
Ramkanta had built up a monopoly in salt importing business of salt from Cheshire at England. He was involved in riverside trading as the presently non-existent Saraswati River was in full flow at that time and a large number of people came using the waterway. It was due to the fact that male members of the family returned late from the voyage that the custom of twin Puja started from late 18th century. Women performed Basanti Puja when men were on their way back home and Durga Puja in autumn when they returned safely. It is interesting to note that till date during Durga Puja there is a ritual of “Nouka Puja” where a boat is being worshiped too.
The goddess is worshipped along with Shiva as Hara-Gouri. The family has faith in Vaisnav culture and “Laxmi Janardan” is their family deity for daily worship. Apart from Durga Puja, Rash festival is also celebrated with pomp and show every year. The expenses of the Puja are met from the ‘Mohiary Kundu Chowdhury Sri Lakshmi Janardhan Jew Estate’. Although the members have vegetarian food during the Puja, they are allowed to eat fish on Dashami after the idol is being brought down from the thakur dalan. No cooked food is offered to the deity. There is no “Sindur Khela” in the family. The ladies only put little vermilion on each other’s forehead after they have completed thakur baran rituals on Dashami.
4. ANDUL RAJ FAMILY DURGA PUJA
Address: Jhorehat, Andul-Mouri, Howrah, West Bengal – 711302
Click Here for Direction Map
( Direction: Take any bus from Rabindra Sadan to Andul. Get down on reaching Andul Bazar Bus stop opposite to Andul Super Shopping Mall. On the side you descent there will be a narrow lane through a crowded marketplace. Walk straight through this road bypassing a pond on your right. The huge but run down Andul Rajbari falls on your left. If you have any idea of visiting the interiors of Rajbari on the pretext of Durga Puja, forget the idea. The Durga Puja is celebrated inside the premises a building beside the Rajbari inside a hastily painted and rather new looking Thakurdalan)
The founder of Andul Raj family Diwan Ram Chandra Roy served under Lord Clive. It is understood that under Lord Clive’s instance, The Mughal Emporer bestowed the title of Raja to Ram Chandra’s son Ram Lochan Roy in 1765 along with a command of 4000 troops. Durga Puja of this family was started in 1770 by Ramlochan Roy of Andul on request of Lord Clive aiming to shift public sentiment from the defeat of Siraj-ud-Doula in the Battle of Plassey. The family had a unique style of immersion. The deity was carried to the nearby Saraswati River and a cannon was fired to cause the impact for her immersion.
The colossal mansion of Anandadham or Andul Rajbari was built by Rajnarayan Roy of Andul Raj family in 1835. There is beautiful courtyard studded with beautiful pillars inside the mansion. However at present Durga Puja is not celebrated inside the mansion, but inside a thakurdalan on separate premises besides the Andul Rajbari. The Zamindari had long got transferred to Mitra family from the Roy when the last descendant of Roy family died without any heir. Thus, the title got shifted to the daughter’s side which resulted in Mitra family being the new Zamindars of Andul Raj.
Durga Puja had stopped in this family for over 150 years, due to a tragedy in the family. It has recently being revived by the family members and Puja is being performed for a period of 6 years at present. Though the ancient rituals have been long forgotten, the family adheres to timings and rituals of Ramakrishna Mission.
5. RAJGUNJE PAUL FAMILY DURGA PUJA
Address: Paul House, Banipur, Rajgunje, Block – Sankrail, Howrah – 711313
( Direction: – If you are coming from Kolkata, just after the Indian Botanical Garden, there is a road which will fall on your left. The road is named as “B.Garden River Side Road” which drives you to Sankrail via Nazairgunje Launch Ghat and Rajgunje. You need to Stop at Rajgunje Bus stoppage. On your right is the C.C. Paul Road. On your left is a lane beside a nondescript Bhakti Bakery that will drive you to river Ganges bank (locally called as “রাজগঞ্জ গঙ্গারধার” (Rajgunje Gangar Dhar alias Rajgunje Ganges riverside).
On reaching the river bank, turn right and drive till you get Rajgunje Girl’s primary school. There is a small pond in front of the school. Right to the pond is the Paul house. The road is not metal here, but one can drive easily to the house. If you are coming by public conveyance, take a bus to Sankrail and get down at Rajgunje bus stop. Alternatively, you can come by train from Howrah and get down at Andul Station. It is about 3 km from the station. Hire a Toto and ask you to take to Rajgunje Paul Bari )
Technically, I shouldn’t have included Paul family Durgapuja under Andul, as Rajgunje falls under Sankrail Block. However. since it is just 3 km from Andul Station, I decided to put it on the list in 2017. The Durga Puja in Paul Family is a 5 generation affair. As informed by the Paul family, the puja is around 280 years old. Primarily the earlier generation was into Brick manufacturing business under the brand name of N. C. Paul Bricks. They earned fame and amassed wealth to built a grand mansion beside the river along with a Durga Dalan. Puja is performed here as per Vaishnava rituals. The pauls have some unique rituals including playing with vermillion on Astami instead of Dasami. Sandhi Puja is also a treat to the eyes as 108 clay lamps are lit on the occasion. Family members residing in other places gather during Puja to make it a grand event. Several kinds of homemade sweets are prepared to offer to the Goddess. Misthti Bonde – a Bengali dessert made in-house is most talked about sweet in this family. On the day of Dashami, household members perform dance with Dhunuchi. The Paul family also indulges in Ratha Yatra festival, whence a grand fair is hosted around its premises.
Distance: 7 km via Vidyasagar Setu from Rabindra Sadan
6. ROYCHOWDHURY FAMILY DURGA PUJA
46 A/11 Shibpur road, Shibpur, Howrah – 700102
( Direction: Take any bus from RabindraSadan to Shibpur Mandirtala Bus Stop. Hire a Toto and ask For Sanjher Atachala. Alternately if you are going to do it yourself, take right from Mandirtala Bus stop and go straight through serpentine the Shibpur Road for around 150 meters or so when you will get a pond on your left. Go for another 150 meters until you get a lane on your left. At the end of that lane is a pink colored nondescript house which is the residence of the Roychowdhury family. The Sanjher Aatchala is in the interior of that house.)
One of the oldest Durga Puja of Howrah is that of the Roychowdhury Zamindar family. Durga Puja is being conducted here since 1685 in their Aatchala Durgadalan which was initiated by their ancestor Raja Rambramha Roychowdhury. The Aatchala is known as “Sanjher Aatchala”.
The family deity is Batai Chandi, (an avatar of Goddess Kali). The idol is over 500 years old which is regularly worshipped in a nearby temple. Batai Chandi is one of the most regarded Goddess in Shibpur area. During Durga Puja, the crown of Byatai Chandi is transferred to the forehead of Goddess Durga. It stays there during The Durga Puja and is replaced on their way back to the family deity after immersing the Durga idol on Bijoya Dasami.
Originally The Roychowdhury family did not worship Goddess Durga. However, Raja Rambramha Roychowdhury had a dream whence he was instructed by the Goddess that she was also a part of their family deity and needs to be worshipped as well. Chandi is considered to be a part of Durga.
The most interesting thing about the Roychowdhury family is that they have a “Bel Ghar” inside the house beside the thakurdalan, where a huge Bel tree stands guarded inside a room. The tree stands on a pedestal on a cemented floor. The ceiling has an outlet through which the tree spread its branches around.
Another very interesting thing about the idol is that it is a Tin chala Thakur like that of Hathkhola Dutta Bari and similar household, but the lion is not horse faced like the other tin chala idols.
Boli or animal sacrifice is still prevalent in this family. On each of the days of Saptami, Ashtami and Nabami “Pantha Boli” (Goat Sacrifice) takes place here.
7. B.K. PAUL’S FAMILY DURGA PUJA
38 Naba Gopal Mukherjee Lane, Shibpur, Howrah – 700102
( Direction: Take any bus from Rabindra Sadan to Shibpur Mandirtala Bus Stop. Hire a Toto and ask for B.K. Paul’s House. Alternately if you are going to do it yourself, take right from Mandirtala Bus stop and go straight through serpentine the Shibpur Road for around 150 meters or so when you will get a pond on your left. Go for another 300 meters and enter the second lane on your left. This is Dharmatala Lane. The third lane on right side of Dharmatala Lane is Naba Gopal Mukherjee Lane. The crudely white painted gate of B.k. Paul’s residence falls on the left side. There is a shortcut to reach Dharmatala Lane from Sanjher Aatchala as well)
The well-known pharmacist B.K. Paul (BataKrishna Paul) had his original residence at Howrah. In his ancestral home, Durga Puja is still being celebrated. The family members were not sure about the period they have been celebrating Durga Puja, but it was nothing less than 300 years. The Durga Idol is placed inside a small “Chandni” (flat roofed temple). The idol is a large Abhaya Durga Idol. In Abhaya Murti, Durga has only two hands, without any Demon Asurs but with only lion/lions.
Boli or animal sacrifice is still prevalent in this family. On Nabami “Mahish Boli” (Buffalo Sacrifice) takes place here.
8. BHATTACHARYA FAMILY ‘S DURGA PUJA
171 Shibpur road, Shibpur, Howrah – 700102
( Direction: Take any bus from Rabindra Sadan to Shibpur Mandirtala Bus Stop. Hire a Toto and ask for Bhattacharya Family House. Alternately if you are going to do it yourself, take right from Mandirtala Bus stop and go straight through serpentine the Shibpur Road for around 150 meters or so when you will get a pond on your left. Go for another 100 metres , you will get the Bhattacharya house on the right. As you enter the house, you will get a miniature idol making workshop in the courtyard of the house. The flat-roofed thakurdalan falls on the right side of the courtyard. )
The family has its origin at Kannauj. The Goddess is Tin Chala Thakur, but the chalas are not the usual style. There is no painting of stories from Purana on the chalchitra, but only floral designs. The idol resides inside a flat roofed Thakur dalan. Entrance to the premises is through an artisan’s workshop or a Mini Kumortuli. As per the opinion of household members, the Puja is more than 300 years. Another uniqueness of the idol is that Navapatrika is placed beside Kartick instead of Ganesh. This is because the Goddess is considered here “Ishani” (to be placed at Ishan Kone, that is North East direction).
There is a ritual of “Boli” (sacrifice) in this house. However, like other two houses of Shibpur, no animal sacrifice takes place here. Instead, sugarcane and pumpkin are being sacrificed. During immersion, the idol is carried over bamboo poles by people instead of being taken by transport.
Distance: 5 – 7 km via Strand Road from Esplanade Bus Terminus
9. GHOSH FAMILY ‘S DURGA PUJA
1 Khirode Chandra Ghosh Road (Watkins Lane), Howrah – 711101
(Direction: Take any bus from Howrah Station going to Salkia. Get down at A.C. Market on Dobson Road and walk a bit to reach a lane on the left. This is Khirode Chandra Ghosh Road alias Watkins Lane. The house is just at the entrance of the lane. It is easy to spot it as it is the only vintage mansion in the area congested with huge multi-storied mansions. If you are driving, cross Howrah bridge and instead of going towards Howrah station drive straight to reach Dobson Road. Take a right turn and drive straight to reach A.C. Market. )
As per information obtained from the present generation, Durga Puja started in this family way back in 1801 by the ancestor of the family Madhab Chandra Ghosh at the tender age of 14 at the present residence of the Ghosh family. The roots of Madhab Chandra Ghosh could be traced to a Royal family at Kakdari village of Medinipur.
As per present descendants, the royal family had amassed so much of wealth, that they had filled huge canals with a lot of paddies chaffs to make way for Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah’s army attacking British soldiers. It is said that the Nawab was so impressed with the Ghosh family’s effort, that he vested the title of “Rajapalmal” to the family. Due to various reasons, Madhab Chandra Ghosh left his ancestral house only at the age of 6 along with her mother. He reached Howrah and started reestablishing his Zamindari there. The Puja is at present organized by the fourth generation of the family.
The family deity is Radha Madabh who is worshiped daily. Madhab Chandra’s son Khirode Chandra Ghosh started this practice.
Durga Puja is celebrated in the same Thakurdalan where Radha Madhab is worshiped. The Chalchitra of the Goddess showcases scenario from Bishnu Puran and Chandi Puran. Unlike most of the deities of traditional houses, the Goddess and the family is a replica of life like individuals. Among the rituals worth mentioning fact is that Chandi-Path and Geeta-Path starts one week before the Durga Puja. Kumari Puja is done on Nabami along with Dhuno porano Rituals.
During Durga Puja different social functions takes place in the courtyard of the house involving family members and other artists. Members of Iscon performed in 2015. Baul song and different folk songs are also being performed here Durga Puja.
10. BANDOPADHYAY FAMILY ‘S DURGA PUJA (SALIKHA HOUSE)
Salikha House, 187/1 Shree Ram Dhang Road, Salkia, Howrah – 711101
Click Here for Direction Map
(Direction: If you visit Ghosh family first during your visit to Salkia, take another bus from G.T. Road which is going to Bandhaghat or Belur. If it is going to Bandhaghat only, get down at Bandhaghat stop and walk straight for about 400 mts to reach Shree Ram Dhang Road on your left. Another brisk walk of 300 mts on Shree Ram Dhang Road will take you to Salikha house on your left. Alternatively, if you get a bus to Belur, get down at Babudanga bus stop just after crossing Salkia Chowrasta (a four-point crossing). Cross the G.T. Road and get into Shree Ram Dhang road on the opposite side. Salikha house is about 600 metres from the Babudanga bus stop. There is also ferry service from Ahiritola to Bandhaghat.
If you are driving, it will be better to drive from Ghosh family’s house through Khirode Chandra Ghosh Road alias Watkins Lane to reach G.T. Road. Take a right turn and drive until you reach Salkia Chowrasta. After going about 300 mts from the crossing, you will reach Shree Ram Dhang Road on your right.)
Standing at the gates of Salikha house one would suddenly be reminded of the fact that Salkia’s original name was Salikha. I don’t know that apart from the Bandopadhyay residence, anywhere in Salkia its old name is publicly displayed. The family is celebrating Durga puja way back from 1774 when the first known ancestor Radha Mohan Bandopadhyay started the annual ritual of worshiping the Goddess. The family prospered during the tenure of Radha Mohan’s son Rasik Krishna Bandopdhyay. It seems like folklore now, but there was a time when Salkia Bazar was owned by the family. They had a garden under their name known as a Banerjee Bagan.
There still exists a Banerjee Ghat, where the Durga idol of the family is immersed on Dashami. There still exists a Bhairav temple along with other temples belonging to the family located adjacent to the mansion.
Presently the Durga Puja is being conducted under the guidance of present scion of the family Susmit Bandopdahyay. Noted Bengali lyricist, songwriter and music composer Pulak Bandopadhyay was his uncle, who resided in this very house.
Just like the Ghosh family, the idol of the Goddess and her family are a replica of life like individuals. The Bandopadhyay family has witnessed Mosh Boli ( Buffalo Sacrifice) in the yesteryear. but now only Chalkumro is sacrificed. Dhuno Porano rituals are observed here on Ashtami. The bhog cooked for the Goddess on Dashami is actually of the earlier day( Basi Bhog) which consists of Panta bhat, Masur dal with chalta (Elephant apple), Chanchi Kumro (Pumpkin) , Lau alias Lauki (bottle gourd) , Pui Shak (Malabar Spinach) chachori and Lyata mach pora (Smoked Lyata Fish). Panta bhat is a rice dish made from soaking leftover rice in water overnight. It is usually served in the morning with salt, onion and chili.
11. ATA FAMILY ‘S DURGA PUJA
Ata House, 142/8/1, Shib Gopal Banerjee Lane, Salkia, Howrah – 711101
(Direction: Shib Gopal Banerjee Lane is perpendicular to Shree Ram Dhang Road. The direction to reach Shree Ram Dhang Road is given in Bandopadhyay family’s Durga Puja details (No. 8). The lane is almost opposite to Salikha House – residence of Bandopadhyay family. If you are walking with Salikha house on your left, Shib Gopal Banerjee Lane falls on your right. A brisk walk about 200 metres takes you to the nondescript Ata house on your right. A big Victorian mansion is situated just before it which every first-time visitor misidentifies as the Ata House.)
Durga Puja started in the Ata family by their ancestor Nafar Chandra Ata about 200 years ago. The family had a business of iron casting. The foundry industry of Howrah which was once known as Sheffield of India is now in a sorry state. Ata family was once a prominent part of this industry and had accumulated immense wealth from the business. Now only the two cast iron pillars on its Thakurdalan reminds of the good old days. The idol is traditional ekchala with Daker Saaj.
Distance: 30 km via Strand Road from Rabindra Sadan
12. DURGA PUJA OF DAS FAMILY AT BELKULAI
Das Residence, Belkulai Village, Near Domjur – Bauria Road, Howrah, Panchla, West Bengal – 711322
(Direction: Panchla More is almost 7 km from Dhulagori Toll Plaza on NH 6. From Rabindra Sadan Buses going towards Bagnan, Digha, Uluberia, Gadiara, Mecheda stops at Panchla. Alternatively, there are many buses available to Panchla from Esplanade bus terminus. 79 no bus from Dunlop also goes directly to Panchla. From Panchla hire a cycle rickshaw to reach the Das Residence at Belkulai village through a bumpy road which is around 2.4 km from Panchla more. For an up-down visit and waiting for 2 hours, a rickshaw ride will cost Rs 150. Auto rickshaws are also available but they cost more. Alternatively, you can reach Bauria station (3.2 km) by local train and hire a conveyance to reach Das residence.
If you want to drive to the village, cross second Hooghly bridge and drive through Kona Expressway and NH 6 via Santragachi, Alampur, Dhulagarh and Ranihati to reach Panchla More. From Panchla-More take left where you will see a signboard which says “Bauria Station – 4 km “. This is the Bauria -Domjur Road. Drive through it bypassing “Country Roads” resort on your left and Basudevpur KNPC School on your right. After crossing the school enquire people in the neighborhood for the whereabouts of “Kethopul”. It is an area around 1 km from the school. From Kethopul, there is a sharp turn on the left. Drive through this to reach first the huge white building of Belkulai C.K.A.C. Vidyapith High school. Take the narrow bumpy road on the right of the school besides a pond to reach the palatial Das mansion on your right.)
The Das mansion which is a stone throw from the school is no less a palace. The stucco work outside the mansion and on the Thakurdalan are of finest quality. The family follows Vaisnav rituals and has the family deity Narayan residing in a temple adjacent to the mansion. Durga Puja is celebrated in this house not for long as compared to other families of Howrah. However the major attraction of this household Puja is the fact that literally whole of Belkulai village especially womenfolk gather here during Durgapuja as there are no other Bonedi Barir Puja in the vicinity. The atmosphere takes you back to film sets of Tarun Majumdar depicting utopian village as you look at the rural crowd praying in unison with an immense devotion which sadly lacks in the city.
A woman named Ashalata who was grand daughter-in-law of a senior lady in the house Kadambini Devi had dreamt of the Goddess way back in 1934. As mention earlier the family members were Vaishnavites and thus only was involved in festivals involving Lord Krishna. But on the insistence of senior members of the family, Kadambini’s two sons Chandra Kumar and Adhar Chandra started Durga puja in the same year from Mahalaya. The puja started in the same thakurdalan where Narayan was also worshipped on various occasion.
Bodhon takes place on Sasthi under a Bel tree near the house inside a covered enclosure. During Bodhon, the family deity Narayan is also brought to this enclosure. There are certain unique rituals followed here during Bodhon. A sliver kunke (rice grain measuring container) filled with paddy grains, smeared with vermillion on its top and wrapped in a silk cloth is decked up as a symbol of Dhanyalakshmi ( A part of Goddess Lakshmi). The symbolic Dhanyalakshmi is placed beside the Durga idol in the thakurdalan. This follows the family deity Narayan being carried by the Purohit accompanied by seven married women. All these persons encircle the Durga idol seven times before placing the family deity besides Dhanyalakshmi.
The family indulges in no sacrifice. Even No fruits are sacrificed. Navapatrika rituals involve bathing of the Navapatrika in the nearby pond followed by another bathing ceremony with water from 108 waterbodies in the courtyard in front of the thakurdalan. Sandhi Puja is done on Navami which involves lighting 108 brass lamps on banana leaves. Many woman folk from the village takes part in lighting the lamps.
1. Howrah District Gazetteers by O’Malley, 1909
2. A Brief History of the Andul Raj by Babu Kissory Mohan Gangopadhyay, 1900
3. ‘Tradition, a way of life’ by Dalia Mukherjee, The Telegraph – Howrah, September 19, 2014
1. Dalia Mukherjee for providing contact details of some of the Bonedi Baris at Howrah
2. Shrabanti Brishti Mitra for providing leads and locations of some of the houses at Shibpur, Howrah
3. Sagar Sen, Kanad Sanyal, Debdutta Haldar, Tirthankar Sarkar, Aritra Biswas and Dhruba Dutta Chaudhury for accompanying me in house hunting
4. Members of Bonedi Families for taking time in narrating the family history and allowing me to take photos in their house premises.