Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Durga Pujo Isspecial

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Durga Puja at Bharat Sevashram, NJ, 2005

Aaj Shosthi, the Sixth Day of Navratri and the first Day of Durga Pujo.

As I pulled the car out of the driveway, I rolled down the windows and sniffed the air. It was crisp, clean and yet I could faintly smell the shiuli, the tiny white flowers with their deep yellow stalks which carpeted the back garden at my grandma’s house. This was the season they bloomed in abundance, pristine white, heady fragrance offering them for the Pujo.

It was still dark and I listened intently. It was quiet except for the cars whooshing past, and I strained my ear to catch the faint sound of the drum, maybe the dhaaki would be playing a playful practice beat at this time of the day.

As the day dawned, the sky was overcast but the forecast predicted a clear blue with cotton clouds hanging around, just like Sharat er Akaash (autumn sky) and my heart skipped a beat. For a fleeting moment I thought of the crowds at the Puja Pandal back home, the Priest announcing the Anjali* over the microphone, the jostling for the flowers for Anjali, waiting in queue for the prashad and Durga Thakur’s face smiling down benevolently at me.

But strangely I didn’t feel a tug at my heart as I used to in my initial years away from home. Even in the absence of these, I could feel the rush in my heart because it was the first day of Durga Pujo. Maybe because more than anything Puja for me has meant being home with the family and this year I have family here, ok half the family.

Durga Pujo always meant going back to my Baba’s home town in Bihar, to the address I had to write as “Permanent Address” in all my school forms. It meant days of waiting for the Puja Holidays to begin, of buying clothes and sarees for the family, of My Baba’s very happy face and my Ma’s not so happy one(she would be away from her folks). The essence of Pujo would begin with Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s voice on Mahalaya at 4 AM over the air waves. The excitement would mount until a day before Shoshthi when we would pile up two rickshaws with suitcases and head for the Station, to board the Tinsukhia** at an ungodly hour.

The five days of Pujo would pass with two trips to the Thakur Bari every morning and evening.

The tempo which was subdued at Shoshthi would gather a momentum by Ashtami the “Eighth Day of Navratri” and the most important Day of Durga Pujo. The Mandap would be charged with frenzied beats of the Dhak, Durga Thakur’s face would be glowing with Garjon Tel, her dark beautiful eyes would take a life of their own, the crowds would be at their peak and you felt a part of a huge celebration. Above the chanting of “Ya devi Sarvabhooteshu ”*** you could hear the announcer yelling “Guddu ki ma, aap jahan kahi hain, …” and you put in a prayer for the unknown little boy who was missing his mother.

It was heady, invigorating and you did not have to a believer to be with the crowd.

And then came Dashami and you felt a deluge of sadness. As my Ma and my Aunts bade farewell to Durga, by offering her sweets and sindoor, I felt a pain. There was this immense sadness of a dear one leaving for a far off land. A sadness which could only be healed with the prospect of the sweets & savories earmarked for Bijoya Dashami.

Thus ended Pujo, but the effect lingered as we went around visiting relatives for Bijoya and sampling Nimki, Narkel Naru and ghugni at the umpteenth house. By the time we were tired of the detoriating conditions of the Ghugni and the increasing hardness of the Narkel narus, it was Lakshmi Pujo and then time to go back home, to routine, to books, to exams.

More than any mythology associated with Durga Pujo, I loved the folk lore which talks about Durga visiting her Mother’s home, the Earth, with her 4 children for a 5 day vacation every year. She felt like my Mother who too went back to her parents home once a year. I look forward to welcoming the daughter back to her Mother’s home every year in autumn and pamper her before bidding her a tearful farewell on dashami, when she goes back to her husband.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Though Pujo here is not same as back home, I am still excited about going to Pujo tomorrow, to take out my silks and to see Ma Durga who is more like family who visits once a year than any Goddess. I shall offer my Anjali in the evening and reuse my flowers which I shall not throw at the Goddess' feet, see Sondhi Pujo on Friday evening and wait for the 108 lamps to be lit albeit by electricity, wait for the Arati and seek blessings from those flames for myself, my daughter, my family, have Bhog on Styrofoam plates balanced on my knees, catch up with friends and overhear elderly Bengali ladies displaying their expensive saree and jewellery subtly.

Amidst the crowds and the haze of the incense, I will look up to Durga’s face and see her still smiling kindly and I shall hope that smile gives my daughter belief in her own strength and reassure her as it always did for me, that “all is well with the world and goodness still wins over evil” . That for me is Durga Pujo.

Anjali* -- Offering of flowers to the deity
Tinsukhia** -- A train running from Delhi to Guwahati
Ya Devi Shorbobhooteshu*** -- Start of a
sloka in praise of Goddess Durga
dhaaki -- The drum players, who came from the many smaller villages to the city to play the dhak, the drum, for the Puja.

Update: This goes to Jihva Special Edition: JFS Dassera at Past, Present & Me. Thanks Vee & Lakshmi for reminding.

If you have special Durga Pujo Memories please leave a comment with your Durga Pujo Isspecial. Would love to hear from you and have a virtual Adda.
(To be Continued if time permits...)


  1. Lovely Pujo post, Sandeepa. I love the folk-talkes too, they take me back to the time when i was lil'.....waiting for the second part!

    Enjoy the festival time, dear :).


  2. Happy Navrathri Sandeepa, nice post, but have nothing to add here, I don't celebrate the festival :)

  3. Beautiful post !

    Durga Pujo and the Probashi nostalgia are probably as seasonal as the Kashfuls during Saratkal.

    An old nostalgic take here

    [sorry for the shameless self-promotion :-)]

  4. Happy Navratri...beautiful post...

  5. i have learnt a lot from this post. Thanks honey!

  6. Wish you a very happy Navratri.

  7. Happy Navaratri. Lovely post and lovely pics. Enjoy the festival

  8. What a nice post, Sandeepa! May the magic remain with you forever!

  9. My best memories of Durga Puja are from my high school days in Delhi - I was part of my guru's troupe that would perform at a few random pandals in Malviya Nagar, Chittaranjan Park and Kalkaji - a particular sector in Gurgoan filled with Bengalis that I forget.

    Durga Puja for me always brings back memories of rigorous practice and performing in the most dicey circumstances.

    Once at a pandal at Malviya Nagar we all thought the stage would come down - we were six of us and the stage was a tiny room sized assembly of wooden planks on tin boxes :D

    PS: you can send this to Vee for Jihva.

  10. I have never witnessed Durga puja but heard a lot about it from one of my father's maama who is settled in Kolkatta (maami is Bengali). And I had a friend married to a Bengali who had these beautiful Durga faces to adorn her home and she too narrated how grand a celebration it is... grander than Diwali! Your post is a wonderful one taking me with you on those lovely memories:) Happy Navarathri, Sandeepa

  11. Sandeepa!!
    Fantastic photo and i remember stories from my childhood about the significance of navrathri!!! and after now it s you who explained it so well!!
    Glad i read all about navratri now!!

  12. beautiful post san.... i could visualise the whole story. i have too many things to say abt navratri festival which will eat up all the comment section;)
    wishing u n ur family a wonderful festival season...

  13. Great post, loved reading it. I don't celebrate Durga Pujo nor have I seen it being celebrated, will enjoy the festivities through your eyes/words.

    Have fun Sandeepa.

  14. Sandeepa, my mind overflows with memories about this many that it is a post in itself(check my blog)...but one thing is for sure, that we always looked forward to this period of the year..I could totally identify myself with most of your memories.

  15. Awesome post sandeepa.. Loved the way u narrated ur sweet memories of how u celebrate Durga Puja.. Thanks dear..

  16. Dugga, Dugga!! (learnt that from the movie!:D), what a great post! We all have the similar idea of a festival and still different. India is beautiful!:))
    Have a great Durga Pooja. Hugs.

  17. sandeepa..what a lovely write-up....happy durga puja :)

  18. Sandeepa......Nice post...Informative......and nce pics too dear :-)
    Happy Navrathri to u and ur family :-)

  19. Beautiful post ! I love such posts and you write so well...want to read more...hope you get time :)Greetings of the season!

  20. I could tell this came straight from the heart. I wish you next year to have ALL your family with you, not just half.

    And tomorrow I will post a little something just for you on my blog ;-)

  21. Happy NavRaatri, Dear!!! Nice post, with lovely pics!!!

  22. we're no bengali, but i loved teh durga puja in my neighbourhood. there was something about it that was special. lovely post. tha's the only festival i looked forward to.

  23. As promised! A nostalgic memory!

    Durga Pujo for probasi's from Bombay has always been among friends of your parents and yours. No relatives, no cousins, no grandparents other than those phone calls in the night on trunk lines in the early years and later on STD lines. Well one of the reasons would be that we never had holidays and there would be those unwanted exams too!

    But the pujo also kept a timeline of how we the kids grew up and what we did. From those early years, where we all wanted to be in the pujo and give anjali before we went to school to give exams. Return back, study a lot because we wanted to go in the evening. Soon, we grew up to our teenage years, schools were in the morning. We used to be in the pujo immediately after the exams in our school clothes. And ofcourse, we used to have a free time, planting tricks on parents.

    Soon we reached college, and now we knew we could bunk our classes on our way to enjoy pujo. But then, now we wanted to wear nice clothes and dress well up. The girls wanted to have makeup, heels, sarees and other accessories. Guys, wanted panjabis, kurtas in the morning, nice stuff in the evening. But what never changed was going for the pujo with all the excitement. I remember, it was the time where once the kids were in the pandal, the parents never cared where there kids were until it was time to go. We used to travel in the evenings, visiting other pujos in the city, visiting other friends of our parents and hearing, "Eto boro hoi geyechis, toke oi choto belai dekhechilam ...."

    And then we really grew up and some of us got married, the others into jobs and couldnt really take off to enjoy. But we were all grown up, meet in the evenings, talk shop sometimes, talk work and have grown-up conversation, look at guys and girls as the case may be. We still had fun, but we still missed all that excitement. It was like we wanted to be there to take a break. We missed the fun somehow and remembered earlier pujos and the fun we had.

    And that was the last of it. Most of us are out here in a different country. My ma and her friends were complaining that the pujo is not the same with the kids not around. Its been 7 years now and I miss not being there during the pujo, but then again, if the whole Vanar Sena is not there as we were categorized once, how would we have fun!

  24. Hi Sandeepa, beautiful post and I relived my memories, thanks to you :). Growing up in Kanpur, we would also try to make it to Kolkata for attending the Pujas. I remember getting up with my parents at 4 am to listen to Mahalaya. I rememeber stacking up all the new dresses for wearing during the Pujo. Also the night tours out with the cousins visiting all the Durga Pujos in Kolkata. Not to forget all the great food we used to have during the tours like rolls, chop, chinese, dosa, etc :). Thanks for sharing your memories with all of us and yeah hopefully next year (or the year after) will try to make it to India during the Pujo :). The thakur's pic is really beautiful. Enjoy the Pujo :).

  25. That really had a nostalgic effect on my mind, body and soul. I so much love Durga Puja and we do puja for all the nine days of fasting. I remember in Mumbai backside of my house there is one Kali temple looked after by the Bengali Association and during this festival that street was always crowded and everyone seeks Durga Maa's Darshan. I used to visit the temple all the nine days and that Dhol sound still ponders my heart. I love the smell of Agar incense that is burnt on red hot coals for Maa. Oh I really miss all that in India. Here we do visit the temple on Ashtami and offer naivedyam and have darshan n blessing of Durga Maa. Hope you will have a great celebrations here away from home.

    Happy Durga Puja to you and your family. You are so good at writing and bringing the picture in front of my eyes, really very talented

  26. happy navratri and happy dassera to you! Enjoy the festival :)

  27. Very touching writeup sandeepa! Those bengali words are like music to ears!:)) what a sweet language! I got goose bumps when you said that MaDurga is like a family member!
    Such a beautiful picture of Maa Durga!I will visit your blog again tomorrow to read this post again and again!:))
    Wish you and your family a very happy Durga puja!

  28. Happy Dusshera Sandeepa to you and your family wonderful post.. first thing comes in my mind during navarathi is saraswati puja and ayudha puja my mom used to be very particular about these two and she use to fast during navarathi ( even now she does) and do parayanam (slokas).. other than these new clothes and yummy feast all the 9 days:)...

  29. sandeepa - you certainly made me nostalgic for pujo season in India!

    When we were young we would go to Kolkata for the pujo. Then it was the small town pujo growing up when I would come home during the holidays. And the last few years was Delhi Pujo. Along with the pujo was the new found freedom that we could stay out till wee hours of the morning hanging out with friends.

    Kalke pujo-te jacchi! tomra ki NJ pujo te jaccho? It should be fun...

    pujor shubeccha janalam...

  30. my best durga pooja memories were while I was in Kolkata. the early morning noises of drums, the different ways of decorated pandals , walking miles together and getting darshan of all the pandals, having chaat in the fast foods, more over I was jagaran durga, standing for 6-8 hrs continuously. the best thing was ppl thought that I was a statue and worshipped me. I was next day in the local TV and newspapers too:))

  31. I love your writing! Your narration is so different from the way we've celebrated it (golu), yet so similar in terms of the social aspects, food, etc. Really really enjoyed your reading.

  32. Unfortunately, this Pujo I get to be in the US, while I family goes through the celebrations without me. But my little one enjoys every festive occasion the most, and I can imagine her getting all dressed up and egging every one to get going to the Puja pandals. In Pune (like every place outside of Bengal), Bengalis use the occasion to mingle, showcase talent, and have bhog together. Hope you and your family have a great time celebrating Pujo here!

  33. Hi Sandeeepa, this is my first time at your blog, and I'm blown away! Fabulous job! I wonder how you can make all this happen even while you busy yourself as an engineer :)
    Very inspiring.
    I have linked to your Pujo post in my post on BlogHer. (
    And ah! I am that one Bengali kid (raised in Kolkata by a Bong bapi and a Mallu ma -- both great cooks) who didn't care much about cooking. So my first cooking experience came from living with my veggie roomies in New Delhi. Meaning, I have very limited knowledge of Bengali cooking, but can identify it by its aroma from a mile :) yummmm...
    Now that I am married (to a veggie South Indian, by the way) and in California and all, the demand for Bengali food is on the rise. I intend to make good use of your wonderful effort.
    Good luck!

  34. Such treasured memories, Sandeepa. Thank you for sharing.

  35. Hey Sandeepa, no thesis is not done with ..not yet!!! Oct 30th is my defense date....

    wish you and family a very happy pujo ....out here both of us burning the midnight time for festivities :((((

  36. Last year I asked for a bong take on diwali. Though, you couldn't comply then, girl, this post of yours more than makes up for the bong take on Durga Pujo. For who but a true blue bong can describe it the way you did.

    One question, though. Why the heck is this not coming to JFS:Dassera?

  37. Aager theke shubho bijoya bol lam. I love reading your beautiful Puja posts (still remember last year's one, we are ageing). Aajkey jacchi to the pandal. Big excitement in the Bose bongsho (i.e. my sis and I).
    Dying to eat bhog-er khichuri. Yum...

  38. Hi, Friend

    Durga Puja is the most important festival of Bengalis. Consisting of series of rituals

    this five day long homecoming welcome of Goddess Durga is close to every Bengalis

    heart and soul.Durga Puja means more to us than just a religious festival., the

    Goddess of Valor, Ma Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Ma Saraswati and many

    many happy Durga Puja.
    Plesse visit for more detail

  39. Musical

    Thanks and went to Pujo yesterday evening. Planning to make a trip today too :)

    Sig, Kalva, Dhana, Lakshmi, Raaga, Sra

    Happy Navrathri to you too


    Blogging opens up so many cultures, doesn't it ?

    Thanks for sharing your memories. You are a pretty accomplished dancer then :)

    Since Durga Puja is a community Puja, it is indeed celebrated at a very large scale. Happy Narvrathri to you and your family


    Waiting for your next post then ;-) I never knew Navratri was celebrated in South of india. During my stint at B'lore most of my colleagues were unaware of how important Durga Pujo is for us.
    Happy navratri to you & K

    Come on over :D, just a 3 hrs drive

    A friend's friend is from Assam and last time she came to the Puja Pandal in her Mekhla. It was so beautiful.

    Siri, Rajitha, Sirisha
    Thank you & hapy navratri to you too

    Ha, ha you are funny :D That is how we say when someone is setting out on a journey

    Ahhhhhhhh...even I hope I get some time:)

    Really, waiting for it

    Happy Navratri to you too

    Really ? What about Ganesh Chaturthi, that is pretty big in Bombay

  40. Pilgrim

    Thanks for sharing such lovely memories.Hope you had a good feast at Kali Bari yesterday :) Kal amader Pulao, Fulkopir Dalna, Chaatni, Bonde, papad chilo


    I have seen Kolkata Pujo only twice, I think and only once did I go around to see those famous Puja Pandals. But I loved BaghBazaar er Pujo
    Even i hope to go back home to Pujo next year, the last time was l--o---on--n--g back and I mean it

    Thanks for sharing and fasting on all Nine Days...wowwww. Are you going to temple today or tomorrow ?

    Thank You and happy Navratri to you too

    Latha Narasimhan
    Ohhhhhh thank you so much. I came to know a lot about Golu from your blog too and yesterday when hubby said that his colleague mentioned something called "Golu", i said I already know what it is :D

    You know we have Saraswati Puja in Feb. While in B'lore I was very surprised to see saraswati Pujo around same time as Durga Pujo.
    Happy navratri to you and your family

    Hyan kal gechilam, aaj o jabo. Kintu ei bar amar in-laws ra achen tai Club er Pujoy jachi na, Bharat Sevashram er Pujoy jabo. The Club Pujos have become too materialistic

    You know much more about Kolkata Pujo than me. And wow you were the Durga, a great achievement

    Thank You and Happy Navratri

    Hey California has great Pujo too

    Awww you are too kind :) Welcome to my blog and have a very Happy Pujo along with the Southie Hubby

    Thanks :)

    Oh, thats not fair. Ok you still get to celebrate Diwali

    Awww thanks and always intended to. Shall update soon

    Na ekhono noy, next week bolbo Shubho Bijoya. Have fun and lit the UK pandals with star power

  41. Happy Navarathri Sandeepa..

    Wonderful well written and divine post!!:)

  42. Beautiful thoughts - yesterday evening IST 8.27 we had Sandhi Puja and the customary 108 lotuses and bel pata were offered to the goddess and then the 108 lamps with their pure ghee soaked diyas were lit . I shall post the pix after the pujas. My memories of childhood Pujas are of Jamshedpur and then for a bit on Kolkata and thereafter Lucknow , but for the last 22 years Durga Pujo has been a magical place in my community pujo in Kolkata .Shubho Nabami to you and lil S and the Significant Other !Protima r chhobi achhey amaar blog a - dekhe nao !

  43. Oops - that was me - Eves Lungs lciw

  44. Sandeepa, thanks for your comment and wishes. Tomake, D-he and little S ke amaader bijoyaar shubhechha and bhalobasha. As usual loved your write up.

    Taken aback to see someone with my real name has left a comment before me ;-)

  45. Sandeepa- ami claypot ta garage sale-e kinechilam. I looked up Amazon aar ei post ta dekhlam... check it out

  46. Nice divine post Sandeepa. Very interesting. Viji

  47. Hi Sandeepa,

    Have been a lurker in your blog for quite sometime now....but this post really moved me.

    I have very similar memories, every year we used to pack bags and head for my father's hometown...I still remember that in our 'para', the Durga murti used to arrive late in the Panchami night, and on Shosti morning, we all would wake up as early as possible to run to the pnadal to get a first darshan of Maa Durga, and the festivities began from then on.....ending with the cries of 'Aasche Bachar abar habe!' during 'bhasan' on Dashami

    I live in Singapore and it has been 5 years since I was last in India for the pujas...


  48. Just wanted to mention that I really enjoy all your posts, but I am usually too lazy to comment :)

  49. Very Very Happy Navrathi ....Have a Great Year ahead

  50. Shubho Bijoya to you and your hubby and hugs to little S. Kalkae bondhur barite Bijoya holo and bhalo bhalo khabar khelam. Today made luchi and aloo chechki.

  51. Sandeepa it was me - Mahua. The post didn't let me put my name and saved it.

  52. Hi Sandeepa

    Shubho Bijoya. Bheeshan bhalo lekha as usual... and inspiring as well, considering, I finally wrote down something for my blog as well.

    My hugs for little S. So did she deck up in Lehenga this time?

    Hoping for more and more of such ones from you.

  53. sandeepa, tomai ekta e-mail pathiye chi... delkhe amae e-mail koro...

  54. Lovely,lovely, lovely post! You've written it all so endearingly! :) You've been tagged!

  55. Wonderful post, Sandeepa. Came here via Bongopondit's blog, an I must say fabulous blog.
    Now coming to the post, you reminded me my earlier puja vacations. Havent been home since last two years. Spent the festival last year at Bombay and this year at Bangalore.

  56. Shubho Bijoya. Had a lot of fun on all the 5 days. Adda ja darron choleche, je ki bolbo! Did u have a lot of fun! I guess nostalgia about old pujo's day is just 'glorified cribbing' and need to create new wonderful memories.

  57. Sandeepa, I loved your took me back to the couple of years I spent in Ranchi. We stayed in a small township 60 kms aways from Ranchi and Durga Puja was the biggest event of the year for us. We wud make a number of trips to Ranchi to get new clothes stitched , buy matching shoes and accessories for each day from Shosthi till Dashmi !

    I can just close my eyes and recollect all the sights and smells of those days..

    Hope you had a lovely Durga Puja this year ....Thank you for a trip down the memory lane...

  58. My comment doesn't have much to do with durga pujo except that my ma is away for the puja hols and your site is a boon for cooking-illiterate working women like me,....especially since ma's away and i dont know who to turn to for those "baarir ranna" type dishes. Ur posts are wonderful...much appreciated!!


  59. Please check out my latest post at

  60. You've been tagged Sandeepa!

  61. Thank you Sandeepa, for this lovely tale of your growing-up and your dreams for your own child's growing-up -- it's very touching to me for a number of reasons :)

    All the best and hugs to you and the little one, dear.

  62. Kalibarir photo lagiyechi :)

  63. dassara(navaratri) is celebrated as our naada habba meaning state festival. i am sure u must be aware of gr8 dasara festival in mysore...

  64. What a lovely, reminiscent post, Sandeepa. Shubho Bijoya. I wanted to upload my pictures sooner but just got back from Cal. Will do a post soon.

  65. Happy Navratri to you!! Lovely write up Sandeepa....

  66. Wonderful posts by flattering....i am new to DMC and just trying to read more than write....would like to say that yours and posts by other moms are fascinating to read and digest...

  67. Grab a 7up, look for a unique number beneath
    crown/label.Send that unique digit to 09222292222 & you stand a
    chance to win a Sony Ericcson mobile phone per hour,a Splendor bike per
    day and a Tata Nano car per week.Toh bhakt jano...deri kaino !!
    *National SMS charges as per mobile connection
    *Conditions apply!/pages/Leboor-Baba/125353464158719

  68. Fantastic post, the pictures are also very good. Interesting culture.

  69. Very Nice Post Sandeepa .. n ur blog too .. I am a Maharashtrian married to a Bengali and staying here in US .. I love all your stories and have tried most of your recipes .. they are so good ... Thanks for getting me acquainted with Bengali Culture and giving me an opportunity to peep into Bengali Rannaghar ... :)

  70. Very Nice Post Sandeepa .. I am a Maharashtrian married to a Bengali and living here in US... I love all your stories and all your cooking too... I have tried most of your recipes and they all turned out good... Thanks for getting me acquainted with the Bengali Culture and giving me an opportunity to peep into your Rannaghar :)


Thanks for your Comments. I hope you will be nice and not Spam.