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.


Hindu sages and saints have contributed a lot in the independence of India. Many social reforms were also initiated by sages and saints. Tea revolution in the eighteenth, nineteenth centuries (under which the style of drinking tea in India changed forever.
Tea was recognized as the beverage of the common Indian from the beverage of the Europeans)

“I believe tea has helped us, as a nation. At least, our tea drinkers outnumber those who consume alcohol, One may even go so far as to claim that the spread of alcoholism has been arrested in this country because of tea.” SANKAR THE MONK AS MAN

How hard it is to believe that we Indians were unaware of tea (chai) a few centuries ago. Now hardly any Indian starts the day without tea. (The people of South India are lucky in this case that they have the option of choice, they can choose between tea or coffee according to their convenience) It is a matter of happiness that today in the use and production of both tea and coffee, India is one of the major countries of the world. According to a national survey, fifteen cups of tea are consumed in India compared to one cup of coffee.

Gradually tea became a part of our daily life. It is also like that we Indians were unaware of potato, and tobacco,(Potato &Tobacco was introduced by Portuguese ) today without them the daily life of many Indians cannot be imagined.

Herbal tea has a centuries-old history in India. Even today there is a lot of custom in India to drink it, but today this drink is also called Kaadha. Consumption of decoction has its benefits. Herbals like black pepper, mint leaves, basil leaves, liquor ice, cloves, ginger etc are used in the decoction. India has historically been a stronghold of natural medicines and spices, so it is common for such beverages to become popular. Similarly, lemon tea is also very popular in India. In recent years, the increasing awareness of people towards natural beverages has made Kaadha very popular. It has been used as a medicine in colds. In recent times, its popularity has increased a lot in the outbreak of Corona. There will be hardly any home or hospital in India where this herbal drink is not being used.


The extraordinary story of ordinary tea The story of tea was written in India during the Bengal rule of the East India Company. And within a few years it turned into a mass movement.
The East India Company was a commercial company, whose main reason for its arrival in India was the trade of spices. After the Battle of Plassey in Bengal, the East India Company’s feet were firmly established in Bengal. During this time, efforts were made by the people of East India Company to grow tea in India. It is believed that tea plants were first planted in 1787 by a British, Mr. Kydd, in a garden called Shivpur in Howrah. This was a failed attempt. Later at one place Mr. Kydd admitted that the climate of Howrah was not suitable for the growth of tea leaves. By the year 1820, some prominent Bengali families (Prince Dwarkanath Tagore) were also engaged in the tea leaf business in Assam in an effort to grow tea leaves in Bengal and its surrounding areas.

In 1864, India’s tea leaves were sold for £3 million by the Assam Company at an auction in Mincing Lane, London, England. This was just a beginning.

This was the effort of the East India Company and the famous Indian businessman of that time to capture a part of the tea market in England. Gradually these efforts paid off, by 1870 the share of China’s tea market in England was 90%, after thirty years it was 10%, this was possible due to the development of tea gardens in India and Sri Lanka. Till then the practice of drinking tea had not started among Indians, it is believed that the trend of tea was slowly starting in the city of Kolkata, India. Kolkata was then a rapidly growing British city in India. The political and economic capital of India. Kolkata was also called the White City in those days because the population of white people in the main area of ​​Kolkata was more than the native people, and Kolkata had more white people than any city in Asia. The British people had a habit of drinking tea according to their English tradition, gradually this habit was being adopted by the elite Indians also. In those days, association with British families and eating with them was common in the famous and prosperous houses of Kolkata, as a result many customs and traditions were adopted conveniently by the noble Indians, among them the habit of drinking tea. was involved.

Tea and Nationalism

In those days a new industry was also spreading rapidly in Bengal. That was the printing industry. For the first time in India, the trend of books, newspapers was increasing, many British and Indian businessmen of Kolkata were also seeing the possibility in this new business. Due to the spread of education, the number of educated people in India was also increasing. The old gurukul system of education (which was largely based on Hindu traditions) and Muslim education which was based on madrasas was now getting out of date. Western education and employment based on western education were increasing, a new intellectual class was emerging among Hindus. (Muslims were keeping distance from this education system) This new intelligentsia was to some extent British in language, lifestyle and food, but inspired by Hindu culture, religion, and the spirit of patriotism. Many of these intellectuals did not accept to work under the British government and started working independently in journalism, Hinduism and social reformer. There was also a lot of drinking tea among such people, due to which soon the tag of white people’s beverage was removed from tea.

Tea Break চা বিরতি

Bengalis have tea in their and blood and nobody can do anything about it. Bengalis will never forget that coffee smells like burnt shal leaf, while Darjeeling tea tastes like champagne. Sankar- The Monk as MAN

Rabindra Nath Tagore, a prolific nationalist of the time, and world-renowned Writer, Poet, Philosopher ( first Indian who received the Nobel prize of Literature )
Dwarka Nath Tagore was his grandfather, who started the tea business in India with the British people. He was counted among the tea lovers of that time. He has shared his love of tea with people many times.

Swami Vivekananda A young sannyasi(MONK) whose popularity was at its peak in those days, a voice that was a ray of hope among the nationalists, was a tea lover. This young monk left an impact on the world’s finest minds of his time.
The uncivilized image of Hindus and India in the West and America, which was based on some prejudices, was broken by this great sannyasi, not only kept the true picture of India in front of the world, but also introduced the world to yoga and meditation for the first time. The great scientist Nikola Tesla, writer Aldous Huxley, Tolstoy, Ja de Salinger Rockefeller, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Arvind Ghosh, Nivedita, Jamshedji Tata, Vimal Mitra Shachindranath were influenced by his ideas. Vivekananda’s habits were always the subject of discussion in those days, especially among the youth and the intelligentsia in Kolkata. Swami Vivekananda, along with other poets, writers, and intellectuals associated with the Rama Krishna Mission, have mentioned the popularity of tea at many places due to Vivekananda’s influence. Swami Sardananda once jokingly told Swami Vivekananda’s younger brother Mahendranath that the habit of drinking tea to the people associated with the Math is due to your brother Vivekananda. For more information related to this topic please visit:- https://nithinks.com/2021/01/11/is-vivekananda-still-relevant-today-national-youth-day/


Tilak the Chaiwala of Belur :-

Once Tilak, (LOKMANYA BALGANGADHAR TILAK)the great nationalist of that time, came to Kolkata. Tilak came to Belur Math to meet and discuss with Swami Vivekananda. On the request of Swami Vivekananda, Lokmanya Tilak made tea for all the people present in the Math. Undoubtedly, this tea party is ranked among the most historic tea parties in India.
This incident is mentioned by Shankar in his famous book the monk as man
Giving the details of this incident, Sankar has told that’ Tilak had brought nutmeg, mace ,cardamom ,cloves, and saffron with him. He boiled these things together, added the tea leaves, milk and sugar ,and made tea.’ This incident shows that Our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose father had a small tea shop, and whose childhood is spent selling tea, he is not the only chaiwala in Indian politics.


There is a belief in china that in the fifth-sixth century, a monk from India, Bodhidharma, reached China for the propagation of Buddhism. He is credited to propagate Buddhism in china. It is believed that Bodhidharma spent nine years meditating in a cave, due to constant waking and not sleeping, Bodhidharma was feeling sleepy, due to which Bodhidharma cut off his eyelid in anger and threw it away. A few days later a tree grew at the same place. The leaves of that tree had a special quality – drinking a drink made from the leaves of that tree did not cause sleep and felt energized. This was the first tea plant.

Tea Capital of India :- Undoubtedly Kolkata is the tea capital of India. From the planting of tea leaves to the cultivation, export, acceptance of tea in the society, everything is built in the history of Kolkata itself. Although tea shops will be found in every city, nook, street square of India, but the variety of tea found in Kolkata is rare. The way of serving tea is also varied. From plastic glasses, glasses, fancy cups, to clay pots.
Many shops in Kolkata still make tea in the old style kiln, but the tea found at these shops is usually strong tea. (This is the Indian version of Britain’s sailors tea) The taste of tea in a cup made of clay changes completely, the smell of earthy aroma in strong tea – wonderful.
In Kolkata, the use of milk in tea is also less, in Kolkata tea leaves are more important, after taking a few sips of tea, it is understood that the whole game here is of tea leaves.

Cultural Capital of India & Some very unique tea shops:- Varanasi is not only the cultural capital of India, it is also called Mini Kolkata or Mini Bengal. The reason for this is a large number of Bengalis here. Most Bengalis live in one city outside the state of Bengal, then it is Varanasi. The trend of tea in Varanasi has come from Kolkata itself. Here too many old tea shops serve tea in earthen cups. (KULLHADA) But there is a fundamental difference in the tea found here – milk is used more in the tea here. Apart from this, basil leaves, ginger, bay leaves are commonly used in tea here. In their taste and aroma, it reduces the taste of tea leaves . There is one more thing that is worthy of praise at the tea stalls in Varanasi – the special attention to cleanliness. A small tea shop on the side of the road also washes the utensils used for making tea with hot water several times a day. In Varanasi, tea is a beverage to be consumed at any time, and at any place.

“I think Banaras (Varanasi) is one of the most wonderful places I have ever seen. It it has struck me that a westerner feels in Banaras very much as an oriental must feel while he is planted down in the middle of London”. (MARK TWAIN)


If one is not familiar with the traditions and philosophy of Hindu religion, then the tea shops and tea drinking places in Varanasi can surprise him.
The most unique seems to be the hundreds of tea shops on Samashan. In Hinduism, the last rites of a dead person are performed on the banks of rivers or water bodies, in Varanasi also on the banks of the holy Ganges there are two very ancient ghats Manikarnika and Harishchandra, both these ghats are used for cremation. There are many tea shops on both the ghats. On Manikarnika, there are more tea shops than shops of materials used in cremation. The funeral rites never stop on Manikarnika, day and night. Similarly, tea is available at any time at the tea shops here. The well-wishers of the deceased who come to attend the last rites can also be seen drinking tea at the time of the last rites of the deceased. To know the thousands of years old tradition of Varanasi’s Samashan, Aghori please visit:- https://nithinks.com/2021/03/26/rangbhari-ekadsi-masan-holiashes-of-dead-persons/ This is a normal reaction. The use of tea was once banned in Hindu monasteries considering it to be a stimulating beverage, today drinking tea is a common practice among Hindus in any religious activity. Many Hindus do not consume grains during the fast, they only survive on fruits, but tea is also drunk during this time. To know the story and tradition related to fasting in Hindu festivals please visit:- https://nithinks.com/2021/03/14/mahashivratrishiv-barat-and-varanasi/ I would like to end this post with these words of Swami Vivekananda.