Pujo Esheche!- What Durgotsav Means to Bengalis
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for all the roshogolla-obsessed, jhola carrying, panjabi donning pseudo-intellectuals across the globe. Durga Puja entails much more than ten days of fast, feast and worship. It goes beyond ‘Maddox ae adda’ and aesthetic pictures of “Durga Maa and clan” flooding your gallery. For Bangalis, this is a time for cut-throat puchka-eating competitions, effusive pandal-hopping and embracing our endearingly versatile culture.
Workers are precariously perched on high tops, tying up bamboo sticks to construct pandals, shiuli phooler gondho lingers in the pleasant autumn air, and the atmosphere is filled with recurring utterances of ‘ululululu’ and ‘ki boro hoye gecho’!
Which Bong can forget the utmost source of exhilaration experienced through Notun Jama Gona? The crisp, new clothes we spent months shopping for, shall finally be adorned. For once, we’ll forsake the comfort of our beloved kolbaalish as we zealously partake in bhog poriborton, enamoured by the celestial smells of malpua, chingri maacher malai curry, luchi-ghugni, khichudi-labra, kosha-mangsho,….
There’s a reason why all Bengali mouths just collectively transformed into makeshift watersheds. There is an unparalleled sense of community and togetherness that develops over the course of these few days, leaving behind only nostalgia as we await the next year to bring along its own share of festivity.
Here’s a general run-through of the Pujo schedule, for the non-Bengalis to get acquainted with how we roll (quite literally, considering we’re a sweet amalgamation of pot-bellied jhal-muri fanatics), and for the Bongs to indulge in a tinge of nostalgia, as they pump themselves up for the upcoming jamboree.
Bengalis may be infamous for their lazy disposition, but on the day of Mahalaya, all of Kolkata awakens at 4 am to the recital of Birendra Krishna Bhadra. Mr. Bhadra was a playwright, actor, reciter, theatre director and broadcaster for All India Radio, active during the 1930s-1970s. How did he manage to do it all? Ki re chagol, he was Bengali!
The celebrations commence on Panchami, the fifth day of the festival, with Akaal Bodhan (untimely invocation). It’s called so because the conventional period of worship is actually spring, but Durga Puja is observed from the sixth to the tenth day, in the Ashwin month of a bright lunar fortnight. Around this time, the idol is in place, the food stalls have been set up, and everyone’s exuberance knows no bounds.
That moment when life is induced into Ma Durga by placing her weapons in her hands and unveiling her face for the very first time, is cinematic, to say the least. The resounding thump of Dhaker Baajna reigns in the festivities. The incessant thump of the dhak accompanied by the clanging of cymbals resounds all over the para, as people dance to its infectious rhythm. In the midst of all the adda and anondomela, the pandal is filled with inexplicable energy.
The following days, namely Sasthi, Saptami, Maha Ashtami, and Navami go by in a flurry of nativity plays, dance recitals, Bengali poetry renditions, and of course, Rabindrasangeet. Needless to say, an unlimited supply of supremely oily kathi rolls and communism-oriented conversation is, but complimentary.
The Dhununchi Naach, or the dance with earthen pots of incense is a frenzied, highly skillful dance with earthen pots full of burning coal and coconut husk, held up by dextrous hands and deftly moved in swift movements emitting clouds of incense. This is a heavenly sight to behold at nearly every aarati.
Bijoya Dashami marks the victory of Ma Durga over the demon Mahishasura after a 10-day long ordeal. It also signifies the beginning of the post-pujo emotional trauma undergone by every Bengali, until the next pujo beckons. In the midst of all the Sindoor Khela and Visarjan extravaganza, one of us will unfailingly receive a ‘Happy Dussehra’ WhatsApp forward from that one unassuming non-Bengali friend, and all of a sudden, reality hits harder than that Bata sandal your parents would use.
What follows is an eternal stream of denial as we reminisce over the days gone by. Naturally, it may take a while to re-adjust to the normalcy of our daily routine. However, it’s always good to remember, asche bochor abar hobe! And hence we find the momentary contentment in wishing each other a Shubho Bijoya and staying up till the wee hours of the night, attempting to savour the final moments we have left.
Whether you are returning home this festive season, or intend on celebrating with the most authentic homely ambiance you can garner right here in Manipal, we at MTTN hope you have yourself an absolutely fatafati time!
Bolo Bolo Durga Mai Ki, Joi!