Sept 29, 2021: Harinath Mookerjee family Durga Puja at Kalidas Singha Lane in Kolkata behind Rajabazaar Science College, has been hosting Durga Puja for almost 290 years now. This puja is a typical example of Bengal’s Bonedi Barir Durga Puja that takes you through the century-old Bengali Zamindar or wealthy households of Kolkata and Bengal.
Mookerjee family Durga Puja: Going strong for three centuries
Durga Puja is not just a time of revelry, the climax of the city’s cultural calendar. It’s also a huge economic high point.
The Mookherjee family tradition began in 1722 in a narrow lane of Kolkata. From outside, the place does not look much different from many other old buildings. But when one enters the house a raised cemented platform can be found in the courtyard. This is where the pujas are being held, year after year, for more than 290 years.
“This puja was famous in the British era and was attended not only by Indian aristocrats but also by several British officers,” said Mookerjee, as he points to the separate stairs which were reserved for the British guests to reach their restroom on the second floor of the house after witnessing the rituals of worship.
Celebrating centuries-long tradition with Mookerjee family Durga Puja
Durga Puja started in this grand old mansion way back in 1722 when Harinath Mookherjee left his ancestral home at Godalpara village in Chandannagar and came to Calcutta for better opportunities. It is said that Harinath Mookherjee had bought a metal ‘ghot’ (a pot to store water) with him when he came to Calcutta. This ghot was supposedly found by his grandfather while ploughing the field. After he found the ghot, he had a divine dream in which he was instructed to worship Devi Mangalchandi every day.
Harinath Mookherjee started a business as a jute supplier for the East India Company and was quite successful at that. He became a zamindar and built the mansion in the Rajabazar area with a huge thakurdalan. There is a decorative arch on the thakurdalan (courtyard) with the idol of Ganesh and various flower motifs.
Puja held maintaining all rituals
Although the financial condition is not affluent as it was in earlier days (mainly because the Zamindari system was abolished post-independence), yet these families to date perform Durga Puja with dedication maintaining all the rituals. The Pujas are all 100+ years old. All of the families gather to celebrate Durga Puja with pomp and show it as an annual get-together.
Kolkata Durga Puja is a grand affair i with famous clubs and almost every neighbourhood investing and competing with each other. There are prizes and media coverage for the best theme or event or decorations. Among all this, the devotion to Durga in every Bengal’s soul enjoys a few moments of calm and solitude in the Bonedi Bari, teaming up with heritage and a forgotten era. This year to celebrate Durga Puja, many Bonedi Barir Durga Puja remains undecided to open their gates for commoners due to Covid-19 scare.