DURGA PUJA: Unlike other places in the country which celebrate Dusshera, marking the victorious return of Shri Ram from Lanka, the Bengali community prefers to celebrate Durga Puja. This religious narrative too symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Today, West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is cast in the role of “Mahishasur Mardhini” or “Maa Durga” on her lion, who is on her way to annihilating present-day asura or so speak! In contrast, Goans worship the calm, unifying personification of the goddess Durga, namely the goddess of Goa who is Shantadurga. There are two Shantadurga temples in Goa, one at Kavlem and the other at Fatorpa (originally from Cuncolim).
By Bimalendu Dey
Nuclear engineer Bimalendu Dey, a prominent member of the Bengali community settled in Goa, has been associated with the Baba Atomic Energy Commission. In this feature he recalls his experience of Durga Puja celebrations across the country while on postings. There was a Durga Puja celebration wherever he went and of course, also in Goa where he settled post-retirement.He describes in detail the special ingredients which go into celebrating Durga Puja in Goa, when the community gets a pujari from Mumbai to perform the necessary rituals accompanying the worship of Maa Durga…..
My association with Durga Pujo as we call it…
Durga Puja, also known as Durgotsava, or Sharodotsava, and this is an annual Hindu festival originating in the Indian subcontinent where people revere and pay homage to Hinduism’s warrior goddess – Ma Durga or universal Mother Durga. So we have Grand Durga Pujo now spread the world over in many states of India and countries of the world, wherever there is a Bengali community.
Ma Durga’s image is worshiped ceremonially for five days. This year in Goa Durga Pujo or Puja will be observed and celebrated from Monday, October 11 to Friday Oct 15, 2021.
MY CHILDHOOD PUJA….
WHEN I look back down memory lane across 76 years, I feel those childhood days of old were the best when preparations were made for paying tribute to Ma Durga during Durga Pujo. Two to three months in advance we all brothers and sisters would be excited with the hope that Baba would tell us, “Let’s all go to the tailor for stitching our pujo clothes!” It would be just a half pant and half shirt for boys and a frock for the girls. For me this was my most exciting, valuable and loving gift for Durga pujo. New clothes!
Such physiological pleasure over getting new cloths for Durga pujo is almost non-existent now in the younger generation and the idea of new clothes has lost relevance, for buying new clothes is something we do whenever new clothes are needed and they can be ordered whenever on the Internet sites after checking out the details and prices.
Durga Puja celebration in RAPS and making of Kali Bari Mandir Complex…
I REMEMBER we were all young engineers working for at the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS 1 &2), at a very remote place called Rawatbhata, 60 kms away from the city of Kota in Rajasthan, on the banks of Chamble river, down steam of Gandhi Sagar Dam and upstream of Rana Pratab Sagar Dam. The plant was being constructed with India-Canada collaboration under the Colombo plan. A first of its kind PHWR type of rector technology in India, 2 units of 200 MWe each.
While posted here the Durga Puja was celebrated with the full participation of all members of the community and there was help from the management which provided the venue, where a stage or mandal would be set up for Ma Durga’s beautiful image, and there would also be a mobile van with projector to screen movies and other programs.
Fund collection was not an issue as large numbers of companies were there to contribute funds. There was a real picture of community participation here. All rituals of pujo, preparation, and serving of the bhog prasad meal was done by the local community of men, women and youth.
Having seen the puja rituals since childhood at my home, performed by my father, it was kind of embedded in me to be an active participant in the Puja Committee. Right from collection of straws to shape “protima” to arranging “matti” used to be a fun social activity. We used to gather at the pujo venue after office hours. The protima making schedule was spread over a month. Evening tea and snacks were prepared by various family members and brought to us, so that nobody went hungry or thirsty while working for Durga Puja. We didn’t mind going home late!
Adjacent to the Protima venue there was a temporary enclosure made so that cultural programs planned could be rehearsed by community members and of course, the children as they were taught by experienced teachers. There was an understanding that no one would go back to their home town during the puja days. The RAPS management was very liberal and spared us for six days from regular office attendance and work!
Sadly, later on incidences of interference regarding religious functions started by unlawful agencies. There was a policy of discouraging religious events around government establishments. Under instruction everyone was watched and sometimes warnings were served. So departmental help was reduced and we were told to shift our Durga Pujo to a designated common place — Manab Mandir Complex in Phase 2 Colony and to make our own arrangements to conduct puja rituals.
That time it was as if the heavens had fallen upon us! Durga Puja was about 20 days away. But we were grateful to our RAPS management for allotting us such permanent place. However, it was herculean task to organize the puja in record short time. We erected an iron framed structure. We requested material we needed as well as requested for financial help from local business people and contractors. Donations stared pouring in and we started building the structure.
We decided to assemble at 9 pm after dinner one evening to start the job. Puja was a week away. A welding machine was to be brought from a nearby market place, it was lent to us free of cost. Those days none of us had personal vehicles. It was a hopeless situation.
About 11 pm when we were just sitting and thinking about what to do…then suddenly a miracle happened. An executive engineer of a nearby hydalpower plant of the Rajasthan government, arrived with his wife for darshan of the Shiv temple in the complex, in the late hours. He asked us what’s going on? On hearing about our plight he agreed to drive his jeep to the market place to bring the welding machine we needed. So by 12pm with his divine help we brought the machine, material and manpower and fabrication job was on its way.
Our Durga Puja structure was ready by 6am and we proposed our Kalibari structure ready for use. This was in the year 1986. Since then the complex had been updated, renovated and presently there is a full-fledged Kali Bari complex of Rajasthan Atomic Power Station. Here Durga Puja and all other religious functions are observed and celebrated.
Anushaktinar Durgapuja and making of Kali Bari Complex….
This BARC residential township is known as Anuushaktinager (ASN) and is located near Chembur, Mumbai. I was transferred to Mumbai in 1990 from RAPS to work in PPED, present NPCIL Operation Head Quarter and was staying in ASN.
Here also activities of Ma Kali or Durga pujo were being conducted in a temporary location allotted by the BARC authorities since long. DAE wanted to construct new NPCIL office complex and asked the Kali temple puja committee to shift their make shift mandir to a designated place inside the colony.
Among the Bengali community a debate was started, whether to build any permanent mandir, spending a lot of money – when all would be retired soon and would have to leave the colony? Many senior residents of ASN were of the opinion that we were are government officials and would have to leave ASN upon retirement. There were the financial constraints. Hence, it was not advisable to take up the project.
But soon I got associated with mandir/puja activities and such there was a committee very active and caring and we had successful Durga Puja observance in BARC colony. My association with Kali Bari in RAPS was known to some of the senior officers of DAE. By the grace of God I was given a chance to put up my view.
I could convince the senior members that we must take this opportunity and construct a permanent mandir (Kali Bari). I stressed that fund would not be a concern for such a worthy project. Slowly the decision to go ahead grew. Fund resources were planned, discussed and action initiated. Members were requested to contribute by putting a memorial message on marble stone for their parents/relatives in the temple hall through nominal contribution. Donations poured in from members, contractors, by advertising and donations in donation box.
I recall every fortnight we few members used to open the donation box, count and record the donation and put it in an association bank account. That was quite a time consuming job but rewarding. So the Kali Bari complex started coming up and ultimately it was worth a few crore of rupees and became a hugely popular place for the members of the community.
Organising Gharer Puja 2021 in Goa….
MY younger daughter, a bit religious- minded, had conducted a Gharwa Durga Puja in 2020 in her flat in Kamat Estate, Tonca, Panjim, Goa. Being WFH and still in Goa, this year in 2021 too she has decided to celebrate Ma Durga Puja in her flat in a bit more elaborate ways.
To start with we decided to order a miniature (around 4 ft height on same size Katam) by professional artists from Mumbai. In Mumbai the professional artists from Kolkata come and prepare Protima since long. Mr Pal, the maker of Ma Durga murti or image was contacted and he was ready to prepare our murti. However, it was felt that the task to bring the murti image safely was a very difficult task due to the prevailing pandemic situation, lack of labour and the chance of damage during transportation by train would be risky.
With the grace of God, help and advice from friends, our Protima making professionals from Kolkata in Vasco, Goa, was identified. We visited the venue, discussed and ordered our miniature Protima. This was simpler and safer thing to do. We also contacted a very well-known Purohit Masai from Mumbai who is available this year and agreed to come to Goa to perform the puja with all rituals.
Necessary puja material, also dashkarma bhandar, will be brought by Purohit Masai from Mumbai. There are many other items like earthen pots, diya, dunochi and so on. There are available sources in Panjim and orders were placed. Various flowers like “padyaphool”(108 in number), two garlands or mala of jawaphool (108 flowers in each mala), and various requirement of other flowers and fruit were ordered. We are grateful to many friends for their advice and help to enable to do our Durga Pujo this year.
It is very heartening to share that my elder daughter and her family are coming to Goa during Durga Pujo from Germany. By the grace of God we feel we will be able to perform our Gharwa Pujo 2021 observing all rituals despite Covid-19 protocol in place!