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Rituals of Durga Puja at Bonedi houses in Kolkata

Rituals of Durga Puja at Bonedi houses in Kolkata

Rituals are the most important part of the Durga Puja of Bonedi Houses. Durga Pooja is the grand festival of Kolkata as well as in Bengal. The Rituals are strictly maintained in the traditional poojas of Bonedi houses from the Day1 (Maha Shasti) to Day5 (Vijaya Doshomi or Dussera). The poojas, organized by different associations or the “Barwari Poojas” perform the basic customs of worshipping the Goddess Durga.  Besides the basic customs, there are some other types of customs related to the veneration of Devi (The Goddess) Durga. Those rituals are the unique types and they vary house to house.

[Bonedi Bari: It is a Bengali term. I don’t know its exact English term. But, the term “bonedi” comes from the Urdu word ‘buniyaadi’ which in turn comes from ‘buniyaad‘, that means foundation. Those families which were responsible for laying the foundations of the city of Kolkata began to be collectively called as Buniyaadi or bonedi. Most of the families have own zamindari systems which are abolished after the independence of India. Hence, these families are affluent and traditional Bengali families. The word “bari” denotes the houses. ]

Note: This is the 2nd Part of the series “Bonedi barir Durga Puja“.  In the first part I explained detail about the topic. So, who are not aware of the terms and the festival, please check the first post of the series, “ Glimpse of Bonedi barir Durga Puja in Kolkata.”


Navapatrika Snan:

The rituals are started from the “Navapatrika Snan” on the auspicious day of Maha Saptami. It is the custom of bathing of the banana stem in the river or the nearest Ponds during the dawn. The banana stem signifies the wife of Lord Ganesha (Kolabou in Bengali). It is actually the combination of nine leaves of nine different plants, which are are banana (kola), Arum (Mankochu), turmeric (halud), Jayanti, wood apple (bel), pomegranate (dalim), ashoka,  (mankochu) and rice paddy (dhan).  Hence it is also called Nabapatrika Puja/Snan ( In Sanskrit, Nava=Nine, Patrika=Leaves, Snan= Bathing.) After the bathing, the banana stem tied with nine different leaves, it is wrapped with the Red saree or Red bordered white saree by chanting Mantras. Then, it is placed beside the idol of Lord Ganesha. The idea is to symbolically transfer of life from the water to the banana tree, and through it, to the Goddess Durga ( “Pran Prothistha” is the Bengali term).

Nabapatrika snan or the ritual of bathing of banana stem tied with nine different types of leaves on the bank of the river Ganges.

Photo Courtesy: Google

Fire Rituals or Dhuno Porano:

The main rituals of the Maha Astomi ( Day 3 for Durga Puja and Day 8 for Navratri) are “Puspanjoli” and “Sondhi Puja”. These are performed by every Puja Pandals and Traditional houses. Besides these customs, some bonedi houses perform a unique ritual, that is “Dhuno Porano”. It is a ritual where the married women hold the burning “Malsas” ( the earthen pot)  on their palms and heads, praying for the peace and prosperity of their children as well as families. Friends and relatives get together and enjoy this festivity.

The Fire ritual or “Dhuno Porano” at Dutta Bari (house) of Thonthonia in Kolkata.

The male members of the family help the priest to perform the custom.  The priest sprinkles the powder of incense ( the powder form of the resin like Indian Frankincense) or dhuno over the slow-burning rice husk or coconut husk kept in the pot. The incense or the dhuno ignites the fire that fuels the husks within the pot.

The lady performing the fire ritual at Dutta house of Thonthonia.

This ritual is really tough. The women have to hold the hot and burning malsas (earthen pot) until the fire, within it, is not extinguished. It takes one to three minutes. They tolerate the tremendous heat of fire by holding the pots on their both hands and head. After performing the ritual, they are really get exhausted. But, people, surrounding them take them as the pure form of human being or near to God. The younger members of the family come to them to take their blessings.

The woman gets exhausted after performing the fire ritual or “Dhuno Porano” at Laha Bari (house) of Kolkata.
     The daughter is taking blessings from her mother after the fire rituals.

The series will be continued. Please stay updated, I will come with more stories and photos of the rituals of the Durga Puja at the Bonedi houses of Kolkata in India. If you enjoy the article, please don’t forget to share your view in the comment box.

Glimpse of Bonedi Barir Durga Puja at Kolkata

Glimpse of Bonedi Barir Durga Puja at Kolkata

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.

Durga puja
The priest worshipping the Idols of the Goddess Durga in a “Sarbojonin” Durga Puja.

“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.

Bonedi bari
Bonedi barir Durga Puja: Idols of Dutta Bari (House) of Balaram dey street.

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.

Thakur dalan of Bonedi bari
Thakur dalan ( The long free space or the veranda in front the established idol) of Mitra family. Mitra bari (house) of Darjipara has a huge and well maintained Thakurdalan.

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.

bonedi barir thakurdalan
The members of Dutta family of Thonthonia ( The name of the place where the house is situated) get united at the “Thakur dalan” for performing Puja rituals. Men wear the traditional yellow colored cotton dhoti.

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.

bonedi barir bou
Bong Beauties: The ladies of Dutta Family watching puja in Thakur dalan. The married women of these houses are used to call ” Bonedi barir bou” in Bangali.

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.

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