Durga Puja in Kolkata is the grand social event. It is not just the event or the festival, but it also carries the sentiment of homecoming, the feeling of the first love and the clustering of happiness that one can cherish throughout the year. It is celebrated for five days to honor the Goddess Durga and her sons and daughters who are also God and Goddess. In Kolkata, you can find two types of pujas. One is “Barwari” or “Sarbojonin” that is celebrated with the association of the people of the different neighborhood and another is “Pujas of traditional houses” or “Bonedi barir puja” that is conducted by the affluent houses ( Bonedi bari) of the city. The northern part of Kolkata is much popular for the famous traditional puja including “Sarbojonin” and “Bonedi barir Puja” whereas the southern part is much renowned for theme based Associational Puja or “Sarbojonin Puja”. The art and creativity flourish in those theme-based pujas. On the other side, Bonedi pujas are maintaining the age-old Bengali tradition, culture, and rituals. When the Bongs are celebrating Durga Puja in Bengal, the rest of the India is lionizing Navaratri that is also the occasion of worshipping Goddess Durga.
“Barwari” or “Sarbojonin” Durga Puja:
Durga Puja or Worshipping of the Goddes Durga is the five days festival, which starts from the sixth day of Navaratri ( Maha Shosthi) and ends on the tenth day that is called Vijaya Doshomi (Dussera). Each day, the idols of God and Goddes are worshipped in a different way by performing various rituals. The local clubs and associations conduct the puja in their respective locality and neighborhood for the people of that locality by making the pandals and the stages for worshipping the idols of Goddess. These are called in Bengali “Sarbojonin” or “Barowari Puja”. These are the huge celebrations where the huge amount of money and labor are invested. The art of making idols and the pandals based on the theme (it varies club to club) are so amazing that one must have an experience in his or her lifetime. People are all engaging in pandal hopping and tasting various types of food for all the days. There is no night in Kolkata at this time. Transport, shops, restaurants all are open for the whole night.
Bonedi Barir Durga Puja or Durga Puja of Bonedi Families:
The bonedi families are the ancient families of Kolkata and other regions of Bengal. They organize puja with the association of their relatives and family members. These pujas are more than 100 or 200 years old. “Bonedi” is the native Bengali language. I don’t know its exact English term. “Bonedi” families of Kolkata are those who are rich in tradition and maintaining the culture and have affluent financial conditions. Most of these families have their own Zamindari systems which are destroyed after the Independence of the country. Now, some of them are not so affluent, but they are still maintaining their old tradition with the devotion and performing all the rituals of the traditional puja.
I, personally, do not like to hop pandals by fighting against the huge crowd of Kolkata. I just like to sit in one place and watching the rituals of the puja and the activities of the people in different dresses. I love to visit more than to involve in the activities that I liked in my earlier days.
This year, I have visited, some pujas of those Bonedi bari or families (read it traditional pujas of affluent families). And I just want to show the glimpse of the conventional Pujas and the rituals of those houses within a traditional ambiance. Here, you can find typical Bengali (bong) culture or the essence of Bengal.
In the time of puja, these families and houses get a new life because all the relatives and the family members are united again based on this festival. Those, who are staying abroad or different places of the country, come to their houses at this time. So, it is also the time of reunion.
You can find typical bong or Bengali culture in this family gathering. The ladies wear sarees in the Bengali style and decorate themselves with the various types of gold and diamond ornaments. The male members f the houses prefer to wear traditional Bengali attires like “Dhoti (a long piece of cloth that is wrapped around the waist, passed between the legs and tucked in at the waistline.) and Panjabi ( a long Kurta and top part of the dhoti). Now, the people of Kolkata generally wear western outfits or modern Indian attires. So, watching people in traditional attires and performing puja rituals is a quite attractive event.
This post is only the glimpse of the pujas of “Bonedi” families. Here, I tried to show the environment and ambiance of the bonedi houses. It is for the people who are not aware of the term “bonedi” or don’t have any idea about this type of Durga Puja. I will come with more information about the locations and the rituals of those houses with the pictures to my future blog posts based on this series. So, keep your eyes here for more stories of the Durga Puja of Bengali Bonedi houses.