This Durga idol is truly unique

Tirthankar Das
Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Keeping alive a 150-year-old legacy, Kolkata’s Bhowanipore Dey Bari Puja portrays Mahishasur or the demon in a unique way. The family members tell us more about their tradition

The ongoing Navratri festival has got everyone into the dandiya mood. In a day or two, Durga Puja will have the Bengali community and others join in the celebrations to welcome Goddess Durga. Right now, the streets of Kolkata are throbbing with action with puja pandals getting finishing touches. Soon these monuments of art and devotion will attract thousands of devotees from across the world. Ma is coming home and her children must seek her blessings.     

Durga puja is also celebrated in traditional Bengali households. Erstwhile zamindars or aristocratic families have been carrying forward the legacy. One such family is Kolkata’s Bhowanipore Dey Bari. A unique thing about the 150-year-old Dey Bari Puja is that Mahishasur or the demon is dressed in Western wear symbolising the British. The hatred towards the former colonial rulers exists till today! 

The famous Dey Bari Puja was started by the late Ramlal Dey in 1870. Born in 1846, the senior Dey came to Kolkata from Gobordanga to run his business. His business grew but like other Indians, he too was agitated over British atrocities. It is believed that in 1870, Ramlal saw Ma Durga in his dream and the same year he started doing Durga Puja. As a mark of protest against the anarchy of the British government and the inhuman treatment of Indians, he dressed Mahishasur in British attire, giving the demon a coat and a pair of boots, and that made Dey Bari Puja different from others. 

About the celebrations today,  Debraj Dey, the youngest member of the family, says, “As a future generation, we have been trying to carry forward the legacy of our ancestors for the last 150 years. The structure of Durga remains the same from the time of British Raj since the 19th century.”

Another exception of this puja is the colour of Durga’s lion; it is painted white.

“I have been visiting this puja since my childhood days. The reason behind this is not only the history but the love, togetherness, and bonding among the Dey family members, which is very rare nowadays. This attracts me more to this household puja,” says Sneha Pakrashi, a friend of Debraj.

“The feeling can’t be expressed in words when I see all the family members, from grandmother to uncles and aunts — all working diligently to maintain the age-old tradition,” she adds.

“Celebrations start from Chaturthi with the making of coconut sweets. The men and boys in the family too help in decorating the goddess,” says Snigdha Dey, another member of the family.

Starting from Sashti’s bodhon to Ashtami’s sandhi puja by lighting 108 oil lamps to Naibaidya, an offering of rice and fruits to the goddess, — all rituals are followed to a T at Bhowanipore Dey Bari. On Dashami/ Dussera, arati and sindoor khela are the major rituals. Keeping that in tact, all the members of Dey family carry the goddesses on their shoulders to the immersion ghat to bid her goodbye.

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