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Puja Special

Puja at Durgabari

Shamapika Dhar was sitting intently in front of the deities in her prayer room. Her eyes closed, hands joined in the form of worship. Silently she whispered verses from the Veda.

The gentle undertone of the verses was wafting in the room filling the air with a quiet sense of tranquillity. Offering prayers to the holy beings Shamapika starts her morning every day.

Worship has been a vital part of this 60-year old widow, living in Durgabari at Shankhari Bazar for the last twenty years.

Every morning Shamapika starts her day by offering her idols milk fat, cottage cheese, naru, shondesh and five types of fruits. In the afternoon she goes to the temple to cook dalna, a dish of five vegetables, rice and sweetmeats for the idols. In the late afternoon she offers them five types of fruits.

In the evening she performs aroti with various types of incense, five oil lamps and kirtan. She goes to sleep at night after the shayan or sleeping of the idols.

“For the last couple of decades worship has been an indispensable part of my everyday life," said Shamapika.

Shamapika has been in charge of arranging Durga Puja at Durgabari, the oldest Durga Puja in Shankhari Bazar, for the last eighteen years. She has been carrying on her duty meticulously just like the past inhabitants of this house did for the last one hundred years.

Shamapika's Durga Puja is completely a family affair. No official donation is taken for it but everyone can enjoy its festivity.

According to the legend, a childless lady promised to the goddess that she would do her worship every year if she gets a child. After the goddess bestowed her with a child she kept her promise by arranging Durga Puja every year in this house and changed its name to Durgabari.

"Over the last one hundred years there have been no changes in the designs of the idols of Durga. All the idols are made on a single platform and the puja is performed following the ancient rules and rituals," said Shamapika.

When the puja comes it feels like a festival in my family.

"The women and children enjoy the most. The men of the family get busy in collecting the items needed for the worship," she said.

Every one of the family takes part in this puja with due respect and lots of enthusiasm.

"The daughters, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, grandchildren all help in performing the puja every year," said Shamapika's nephew Debesh Kumar Sur.

All the timings of the pujas are determined by consulting the panjika. It can be at daytime or at the dead of the night.

"When it is at the middle of the night we all remain awake all night," said Debesh.

The family performs the puja of Jita Ashtami, the worship of the son of the sun, without which the Durga Puja is almost meaningless.

"It is a very ancient practice which is performed only in this house in the city," she said.

Shamapika performs a full 10-day worship of the goddess.

No one in the family eats meat and fish in those ten days and they eat after the idols take the food. All the dishes are prepared at the temple from the sixth day or belshoshthi because according to the rituals no food for the family can be prepared at home.

As Durga Puja nears Shamapika assiduously collects all the ingredients needed for the worship of the goddess.

She needs mango leaves, paddy grain, durba, sesame, turmeric, milk, vermilion, shankha or conch shell, soil of the river Ganges, rainwater, sandal, rock, flower, coriander leaves, fruits, kohl, gold, silver, lead, iron, 108 lotuses, 108 types of soil, water of all the rivers of the Indian sub-continent and 108 oil lamps among hundred other things. She buys the soils, waters and lotuses from the Ramkrishna Mission.

At first she performs ghot puja with red sari, gamchha, coconut and banana. On the end of the fifth day she brings the idol to the bel tree planted in her tub. At this time Durga is presented with new sari, turmeric, gold, silver and all kinds of luxury items.

"Durga can be worshipped in two forms -- as the mother or as the daughter. In our hose we worship her as the form of the daughter where she comes to her father's place and there she should be presented with all kinds of luxury items, ornaments and victuals," said Shamapika.

In the first five days Durga is presented with at least seven new saris and at least one for the next five days.

"We adorn the goddess with the gold and silver ornaments that is preserved in the family for her worship," said Shamapika.

Twenty-one gods and goddesses including Durga's husband Mahadeb are presented with new cloths along with Durga.

Pran protishtha is done on the seventh day when the idol is given life. Pumpkin is sacrificed from the seventh to the tenth day.

On the eighth day or ashtami lots of people come to see the goddess and give their offerings of five fruits. On this day Mahadeb is given an offering of raisin, nuts, pistachio, malai, marijuana among other things and the family prepares khichuri, luchi, labra or a dish of five types of vegetables for the visitors.

On the ninth day Durga is offered one and a quarter maund fine rice among other offerings.

On the tenth day a Yagga is performed. Laddu is prepared with five types of sweetmeats, fruits and coconut for her offering and she is welcomed with five oil lamps. She is given ten betel leaves in her ten hands.

"In the first five days Durga remains very jolly but when the time of her departure nears she turns gloomy with the thought of leaving her father's place," said Shamapika.

Then dorpon bishorjon is performed with a mirror and a water filled brass bowl.

"After that everyone can touch the idol and women come to our house to adorn the goddess with vermilion. It is a festive occasion before taking her to the Buriganga," she said.

The number of families maintaining the tradition of worshipping Durga at home is fewer in number but still there are people like Shamapika who preserve the tradition by performing all the ancient rituals.

By Durdana Ghias
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed



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