Our job is not to worship history and culture like fetishes, but to feed them into our living, a creative stream of personal life for spiritual and intellectual reprocessing.The Kolkata folks believe in this statement and also made me realize the importance of history and culture in our lives.
Being Kolkata on my bucket list, I thought of exploring it and found the city exactly the same when I look through its pictures. People here are culturally well versed; you will be surrounded by music and art and theatre lovers or you can hear the clear arguments on football, politics, and food. Overall, the city and its people are vibrant and full of life.
However, my destination is on the other side of the river Ganga. After a drive of almost an hour, I reached Andul, a small yet beautiful village comprises of temples, a small local market and most importantly the small tea stalls where you can have small sips of tea with locally baked biscuits.
After a walk of almost 5-6 minutes from the market, I finally reached the Dutta Chaudhury heritage house. It was the Durga Puja season and hence, the whole family was indulged in the preparation of the rituals lined up for the day. As the Kings and Zamindars are known for their Durga Puja celebrated in their big houses, Dutta Chaudhury family of Andul is one such zamindar family for whom Durga puja is all about their tradition and culture.
The History: Talking on the history of this family, it will take pages to complete however you will get the essence of their family tradition once I will take you through the rituals. The Durga Puja started in this family since the 14th century, when Devdas Dutta Biswas came to Andul from Bally. Later, he was honored with the title “Chaudhury” from Ghiasuddin Azam Shah. This ritual was restarted in 1609 A.D. by Late Kashiwar Dutta Chaudhury strictly following Brihannandikeshwar and Vaishnav rituals in the Chaudhury lanes of Andul. This tradition is passed from one generation to the next and hence we can observe this decade old ritual today also.
The Ritual: The Dutta Chaudhury family enjoys 15 days of the festival starting from “Bodhon” that starts in the month of August to “Dashami”. The day I visited was the 9th day (Navami) of Durga Puja where I learned the rituals of Kumari Puja, Dhuno Pora, and Satru Bali.
Unlike other houses, the Dutta Chaudhury family performs “Kumari Puja” with Non-Brahmin unmarried girls too. This ritual experienced two types of Kumari puja having two unmarried girls-one from non-Brahmin, Kayastha family and another from a Brahmin family. Both the ladies made to sit next to the Durga idol and are worshiped with flowers followed by food offerings. At the end, the people present there should seek their blessings as it is believed that the divinity of Goddess Durga is seen in the girls.
“Dhuno Pora” is yet another ritual which one can see in most of the families performing Durga Puja. The daughter-in-law of the house wrapped in a new saree and seated in front of Durga idol. Both her hands were holding earthen plates filled with stray and incense. The third earthen plate was put on her head on a cloth to avoid the effects of burning heat. The priest started chanting the sacred hymns and the men of the family continuously pouring the resin in the earthen pot and the fire was burning brighter. The overall process lasted for almost for 5-10mins.
The last ritual which was unique to this family was the “Satru Bali”. As the name suggests, “satru” means “enemy” and “Bali” refers to “sacrifice”. The ritual ended by cutting the dummy of an enemy (made up of rice and natural colors) thrice. This refers to the annihilation of enemies of the family.
I was amazed to see that the youngsters are involved in each and every ritual in this festival. For them, Durga puja means to continue Kashiwar’s legacy and also to preserve the rituals of their generations.
And here ends my journey to Andul, a place where people trying hard to continue and preserve their heritage and culture. Include this on your bucket list and listen to the mystic stories of Andul.