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Sharat and Durga

The sky, light blue and clear, dotted with soft white clouds lined with the silver sheen of the almost setting sun; the lonely field, near the abandoned railway tracks, lush with its tall grass and white kaash flowers, swinging merrily to the rhythm of the evening breeze, speaks of tranquillity.

However what is missing in this description is the train whistling past and Opu and Durga running after it. While we know for certain that a scene from a movie cannot be enacted in reality but come Durga Puja and sharat, our unannounced autumn with its distinctive climatic changes of crisp air, azure sky and kaash; you are bound to lose yourself to nature's grandeur. And the possibility of such an evening of romance only tempts you to break free and is bound to bring lull to any restless soul.

Durga Puja for some of us and especially for me is a festival we see our friends or neighbours celebrate and is always wrapped in mystery and wonder. Durga the goddess comes to visit her father's family on earth and the joy, good luck she brings for the earthlings, the rituals with which she is welcomed and bid adieu, is a source of constant wonderment for me.

Durga Puja, referring to all six days observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Bijoya Dashami, is one colourful festival that never ceases to amaze me. I go to all different parts of the town to dance to the beat of the dhak, to enjoy the plays where demons are being slayed, to hear the monotone of the shak, to see the twinkling lights of the aarti and of course to munch on the narus and muralis but most importantly I visit mondops to seep my stressed soul in the colours of this festival.

Old Dhaka with its usual upbeat and vibrant mood plays host to Durga and the narrow Shakari Bazaar lane, with scores of colourful mondops each competing with the other to outdo their rivals, buzzes with festivity. The excitement that oozes from that ambience is contagious, and strolling along the lane you cannot resist the temptation to buy fire crackers, chew on a sweet paan and stuff your bags with sweet crispies.

Dhakeswari Mondir, Jagannath Hall mondops all do their best to welcome their goddess but to see true colours and get the real flavour of the festival, the Mirzapore Kumudini Trust Puja is where you should go.

Srimati Shaha, the daughter-in-law of the late R P Shaha has been upholding the family's age old tradition with fervour. Her eyes light up when she recalls how their heritage continues to be honoured till today by her own daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

“My heart swells with love when I see my grandson in his dhoti and panjabi accompanying his father for the Puja or when my granddaughter dances and sings to welcome Ma Durga,” she says while explaining Ohoban rituals for Shashthi.

“It's on the Shashthi evening that the ritual of chokhu daan is done and the diya with which we light her eyes is safely kept in a sacred place and kept alit all through Dashami. We have a different Puja each day and for each Puja our aarti and bondonas are something worth appreciating.”

Srimati Shaha who is fondly called the mother of Kumudini, is the heart of their lavish Puja, she personally sees to it that all rituals are performed perfectly and that everyone is well fed and happy.

Throughout time, Durga Puja has been a momentous occasion for most people of Bengal. This was an event considered sacred and speaks volumes of the religious tolerance found within the population. The teachings of the spirit of Puja, are now more important than ever, as we at times feel suffocated by the intolerance of a segment of society.

As the autumn clouds fly in the sky, Ma Durga comes and goes and the earth is cleansed by a Sharodiyo downpour.

By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Zahed I Khan and Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Model: Chaitee and Isha
Makeup and styling: Farzana Shakil
Wardrobe: Kumudini Handicrafts
Jewellery: Srimati Shaha, personal
Location: Kumudini Welfare Trust, Narayanganj
Special thanks to Srimati Shaha, Director Kumudini Handicrafts for allowing us to do the photo shoot on Kumudini premises.


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