Ultimate Bengali Essence

Kaash Phool becomes a very significant symbol of Sarad Utsav. Bengalis have a beautiful picture of Kaash Phool: Apu and Durga are running through the field filled with Kaash to see a train in Pather Panchali, this scene is epic and one of the favourites. To Bengalis, kaash is the first messenger of upcoming Durgotsav. The beauty of Kaash field is heavenly and Maa Durga is arriving is nothing but a happy imagination.

Potters hub- The creation room is mostly known as can be said the first house of Maa Durga. The kumhars or potters are too much busy in transforming Devi’s formless form to earthen and quite lively idols (from Chinmoyee to Mrinmoyee form). There Devi is decorated with colour, ornaments, gorgeous attire like saree and even she is designed with a new concept to please and amaze her devotees. The potters have big responsibilities and with their hard work and effort, imagination they conjure up many wonderful idols.

‘Dugga Dugga’….. You might have heard this while strolling down the lanes of Bengal. An old woman with white saree and red border is waving hands and tapping her fingers on her forehead before the journey of the householders. Durga Puja and Bengalis are like synonymous…without one the other cannot be detected. They are a complement to each other. For the Bengalis, Durga Puja is not just the celebration it has become the soul. The whole country even the world drench into worshipping the goddess with her children but in Bengal, it has a spectacular scene.

About this celebration ask a Bengali what is the feeling and you never want any argument about it. The essence is unforgettable, phenomenal. Since my childhood I enjoyed this occasion, frankly said I lived it from my soul. My puja was then started before a month of the actual date. Though I was a good boy, I cannot resist myself from the magical sounds coming from cap guns (cap banduk).

I deliberately asked my father to buy it for me—That was truly fascinating. As my parents were musicians I heard many things from them about puja in old days. Even today I look for those specimens of old times. My mother has carefully stored Sarad Arghya the books published on the days of puja as there were new songs specially released on puja purpose.

I could get the smell of siuli flower on Mahlaya morning with the sloka chanting and Agamoni (evoking songs of maa Durga) by Birendra Krishna Bhadra and other artists.

Those days were really brighter days. Listening to Mahishasuramardini, woke up in the early morning, staying outdoor the whole day with my precious cap banduk. And the days of pujas, those are till now exciting but what I did as a child had a clear picture in my mind. At least five to ten times I went to Puja Mandap a day and when the main ceremony started I became a different person—I became a free bird. One of the most curious things to me when uncles (committee members) went to bring Durga Murti and a man every year held a torch before the idol. That surprised me all the time. And one day I became so curious and asked the reason and what he told was funny,” what is your problem son? I am the electrician and I know my business well. So why should I waste another halogen so I every year hold the torch.” These are golden moments of a child and so for mine. Akalbodhan on Sasthi, Kalabou snan on Saptami, Puspanjali and sandhi puja on Asthami, Bhog distribution in Nabami were the time of fairy tales.

One of the most fascinating matters of puja to me is Loochi and Aloor Dom on Asthami, as my mother is awesome cook but the taste of loochi and aloor dom on that day look exceptional.  Even today I long for some authentic Bengali sweets made in house – Narkelnaru (Balls or ladoos made by coconut), Bondey, Chandrapuli etc. The Sarad Utsab is food Festival is actually the unofficial Food Festival for Bengalis. I love the fragrance of fried rice or Basanti pulao on Nabami made by my mother and obviously the Bhog distributed from puja committees.  The day of Dashami becomes special with such homemade sweets and snacks like Nimki and Ghugni. It is truly disheartening—departure of Maa Durga though Ghugni, Nimki, Narkel nadu bring nostalgic flavour in the occasion hence, this day is celebrated in sharing and embracing each other.

Durga Puja is not only just pandal hopping to me or about crowds, being a Bengali I love food. I have seen how people become restless in bargaining, buying vegetables and especially fish—Hilsa (Ilish), Prawn, Bhetki for making delicious dishes for five days.

How much crowd is out there the Bengalis never get worried and so am I. Seeing several puja pandals with friends and tolerating such huge gathering are extraordinary experiences. Crowded, so much noise, crowdy vehicles, sharing seats and any how to get settle up on it …you can find this only in here: West Bengal.

The Crown Ceremony of Devi Durga: Devi is worshipped in Bengali houses like their daughter—supposed to be her parental house. So they adorn her with much effort. Her Crown Ceremony is worth noticing. On Sasthi she is crowned like a queen. All the ornaments are slowly worn by the goddess and she looks enriched as we do. All her weapons are given in her hands and also to her children. Her phenomenal beauty arises goosebumps in you and you could never put your eyes aside.

I just remembered, there was an unorganised competition—How much Bhog one could bring? And to me it was surprising, every child in the area did the same and they all have one answer- “Uncle! This is not for me. The aunty from the neighbourhood has asked me to bring…that’s why I came.” And I was warned by mother,” Babu! Don’t take so many of this, you’ll surely get scolded” as I was carrying many tumblers with me. The same thing happened with the declaration of Dadhikadma on Dashami.

Nowadays, the competition has changed and other flavours of celebration have mixed thoroughly. As I have grown up my eyes look for something else. In Durga Puja one thing is very exciting—PUJO PREM. Yes, this love emerges during Puja: a strong infatuation. Leisure in Pujo time is nothing but getting heaven on earth—Old friends are all together, fun, cherishing past times, foods. And that feeling comes along again. In school time, days were different: only to meet, and hanging out. But now we have bohemian, don’t care and don’t wanna mingle attitude, have a wristband, I-phone and Che Guevara shirt or kurtas. Yet we want to get mingled with that special one. Proposing the admired one and get to know the person is already mingled with one of our group members. That is surely heartbreaking. Still looking for a new love for pujo days and by any means get close to her—Talking, laughing, giving Puspanjali and throwing petals on her hair or shoulder, little eye contact, exchange of smiles or hopping pandals together. This feeling is unnatural to become a hero or someone before her. And at the end of the season, there only remains— Infatuation.

To me, Durga Pujo is cherishing past moments of joy with my family and friends and ruminate some unforgettable moments from my boyhood. I can never go apart from those memories. How much I get older does not matter, the Dodhikadma distribution ceremony will stay brighter in my heart than anything. The craziness of having much than other is- incredible. Bengalis long for this occasion for a year. New dresses, travelling, offerings, foods may all change but those memories still are cherished.

I have noticed people crying on departure of Maa Durga but personally I never did it. In this moment I look for that unending happiness, the happiness to welcome deity for next years. I personally enjoy the Dhunuchi naach, Sindur Khela, and dancing for her retreat to Kailaash near her husband Lord Shiva which is popularly known as: Bhashan dance.


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