Kolkata Durga Puja and Bengali Literature

In India, the mother is the Centre of the family and our highest ideal. To us, she is representative of God, as God himself is the mother of the universe.

For what is a nation? What is our mother country? it is not a piece of earth, Nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind .it is a mighty Shakti, composed of the shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhawani Mahisha Mardini sprang into being from the Shakti of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into Unity. The Shakti we call India Bhawani Bharti is the living unity of three hundred million, people but she is inactively imprisoned in the magic circle of the tamas the self-indulgent inertia and ignorance of her sons to get rid of tamas we have but to wake the Brahma within. (Sri Aurobindo)

For more information about this subject please visit :- https://nithinks.com/2021/01/18/makar-sankranti-is-an-ancient-hindu-festival-or-the-burden-of-old-tradition/

On hearing the name of Kolkata city, some names immediately come to mind – Rasgulla, Fish, Sweets, Dhoti Kurta, umbrella, Howrah bridge Durga Puja etc.

Now that I have been to Kolkata many times, there is no doubt that the city of Kolkata is like my second home, my favorite city. My first visit to Kolkata was by accident. There was no fixed program. My cousin was leaving for Kolkata and he wanted me to come with him but informed me a few days before leaving.

I got to know some information about Steamers, Park-street, and the Museum of Kolkata from my father who had been to Kolkata, he also suggested me to go to these places.

I just knew about the Literary Kolkata before I went there. I have an inclination towards Bengali literature since childhood. Of course I have inherited it. My grandfather was a lawyer and he also loved literature. The first Bengali literature book I read as a child was PRATHAM PRATISHRUTI written by Ashapurandevi, this book was in my grandfather’s library ( that hard bound version of Pratham pratishruti is still stuck in my head to this date) During summer vacations we went to our grandpa’s house and were always looking for something to read .

Pratham pratishruti book was in my grandfather’s library, I took it to read, I think I was probably too young to understand that book at that time, I didn’t liked it after reading a few pages I gave it to my elder sister to read. (I turned my attention to some more simple and entertaining books in Grandpa’s library to spend the summer holidays) Amazing! The book became my sister’s favorite book. To this day this is my sister’s one of the favorite book and she must have read it countless times. My sister has lived in Denmark for the past eight years and she has a more recent version of Pratham pratishruti there, but she still loves to read that old bound version whenever she comes to India.

(VARANASI DURGA TEMPLE) The Durga Temple in Varanasi, built in the 18th century by a Bengali maharani and is stained red with ochre.

Journey from Mini Bengal (Varanasi )to West Bengal:- The largest number of Bengalis live in a city outside the state of West Bengal …… in Varanasi. Varanasi is called Mini Bengal because of the majority of Bengalis here.

I caught a train from Mughal Sarai in Varanasi to Kolkata at night, so firstly I immediately went to my berth and slept. When I woke up in the morning, I saw the first sight of Bengal from the window of the train. With the pond, lotus flowers, and the greenery, it seemed that there was some geographical change.

The train stopped for a while at the MEM SAHAB KA BAITHAK KHANA then I got down to take a walk. Surprisingly many people were smoking. Smoking is prohibited inside the train and at the railway station. (Bengali people’s love for smoking is obvious) When I asked a smoker about this, he laughed and said that “It is a small railway station, so no one pays attention, yes if it would have been a big station, of course by now I would have been fined”.

We stayed at my maternal uncle’s place in Kolkata, my maternal uncle used to work in ITC and had retired on his own volition. As I told earlier this was my first visit to Kolkata and also an opportunity to see Durga Puja in Kolkata.

Kolkata and Durga Puja: – Durga Puja is a major festival of Bengalis, but now Durga Puja of Bengal is celebrated all over India. Kolkata was the capital of the British Raj for a long time, for this reason, Western education was first staged there, many Bengalis got Western education and were appointed in the railway and postal department and all over India from Bengal to Peshawar, from Jammu to Rameswaram. After leaving Bengal, Bengali people spread all over India. These people also took their customs with them. Today the Bengali version of Durga Puja can be seen all over the country. What is the difference between Durga Puja of Kolkata and Durga Puja of other places???

I will explain this on the basis of my experience in Durga Puja . A wide variation can be seen in the ways of celebrating Durga Puja in Bengal and Durga Puja in other places in India. The key to this diversity is hidden in history. In other parts of India, Durga Puja is purely a religious festival, with special emphasis on religious rituals and religious activities. Even in food and beverages, according to Hindu tradition, non-vegetarian dishes are strictly prohibited during the holy nine days of Navratri, many people fast for the holy nine days, and sacrificing daily food items and passing on fruits only. At the same time, Durga Puja in Bengal is a religious festival as well as a joyful festival, full of fun, enthusiasm.

Historical reasons: – During the Mughal rule, Durga-worship was forbidden in Bengal for a long time, because according to Islamic rituals, idol worship is anti-Islamic.

After the victory of Britain’s East India Company in Bengal, Hindu landlords asked the officials of the East India Company for permission to install Durga Puja and Durga idols, British officials not only allowed idol installation and worship, but many British officers also Participated in the celebration of Durga Puja.

Navakrishna Dev, the richest man of that time, organized Durga Puja and made Robert Clive the chief guest of the celebration, Robert Clive along with his chief officers participated in this worship with great enthusiasm.
Not only this, like a faithful Hindu, he also brought lotus flowers to offer at the feet of Goddess Durga.

Now it was Navakrishnadeva’s turn to take on the responsibility of a good host. Non-vegetarian dishes and wine were presented in honor of the British officers, which were common at English parties of the time. This incident later took the form of a custom. In this way, in the Durga Puja of Kolkata, along with religious traditions, amalgamation of fun also started.

Another difference between Durga Puja in Kolkata and Durga Puja at other places is the pandal. ( A pandal in India is a fabricated structure, either temporary or permanent, that is used at many places such as either outside a building or in an open area such as along a public road).

Undoubtedly, the pandals of Kolkata are much bigger than any other Durga Puja pandal of any other place. In fact, the grand form of Durga Puja as seen in Kolkata cannot be seen anywhere else. Bengali life and Bengali culture can be seen in the pandal of Durga Puja. Each pandal has a theme, the whole pandal is based on this theme and inside there is a grand statue of Maa Durga.

Durga Puja takes place every year, the idol of Maa Durga is almost the same, but the theme of the pandal changes every year. The children and the youth have the most enthusiasm and curiosity for the pandal.

KHICHDI :-There is another difference – that of Prasad. In Kolkata’s Durga Puja pandal, khichdi is available in the prasad, delicious khichdi. This Khichdi is different from Khichdi of North India.

Bengali literature, magazines: – Annuals of various Bengali magazines (Puja Varshiki or Puja barshiki ) are published during Durga Puja in Kolkata.

Annuals of various Bengali magazines of various colours, many sizes and types can be seen at the stalls of magazines. Many famous magazines from which great personalities of Bengal like Rabindra Nath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Upendrakishore Ray, Sukumar Ray, Subinoy Ray, Sudhabindu Biswas, Subhash Mukhopadhyay, Leela Majumdar, Nalini Das, Bijoya Ray, Sandip Ray, Sujoy Shome etc were associated can also be seen here in the stalls.

I had only heard the names of these magazines, watching them was a different experience(yes, watching because I didn’t know Bangla so I cannot read them). It was very sad to not know Bangla, there was no magazine available in Hindi.

Only one magazine, Statesmen’s Yearbook, was available in English and I had to be satisfied by purchasing it. The names of the newspapers and magazines of Bengal who made their special contribution in the freedom struggle of the country were echoing in my mind.

Another subject got my attention – no doubt that English has got the status of a global language, Hindi-speaking areas are full of English newspapers and magazines, but in Kolkata, literature has made a lot of progress in the regional language. For more information about this subject please visit :- https://nithinks.com/2021/06/20/yoga-how-tech-yogi-saw-the-light-of-the-future-in-the-brahmastra-of-the-hindu-nationalists/

Politicization of the festival:- BIG[ B ] WATCHING YOU

“THE MOST effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their HISTORY.” (George Orwell )

The saddest thing about Kolkata Durga Puja is the politicization of Durga Puja. I have never seen so much politicization of any festival anywhere in the country.

Every year it is increasing like an epidemic. Stalls of various political parties can be seen outside the pandal of any Durga Puja, outside the pandal the whole field is filled with flags of political parties. Durga Puja pandals are now known for the interference of various political parties. It becomes extreme when the flag of Ruler Party is visible on public transport vehicles too.

Sometimes it seems that Durga Puja has been completely politicized. Once the nationalists of Bengal took the inspiration of the Gita and proclaimed independence all over India. Today in the same Bengal a festival is being politicized due to pity politics.