Its Mahalaya today, the day when its said Maa Durga starts her journey from Kailash to visit us all. Last many years I have been part of this big festival of Bengalis, got involved so much that last year I recall many commented I become more of a bengali during this festival than Himachali. 😀
This year being so far off from Kolkata I really feel nostalgic. Its a fact, Durga Puja anywhere other than Kolkata (Bengal) is not the same. The festival has a completely different charm there. That booming sound of “Dhak”, the “Ulu’s” by women, the reverbating sound of “Shankha”, the chantings and “Ghonta” of priests, they all ushers an atmosphere of pure bhakti, joy and bliss. And this does not start with Mahalaya or Shashti. It starts with Dashami. Yes friends, on Vijaya Dashami, when Maa leaves for Kailash, after immersion the first thing we say – Just 365 more days and pujo comes. That is how I have always waited for Durga pujo every year.
Its on the day of Jagannath Snan that making of our idol used to get started with tying of dry paddy plants to the main wooden structure. Today Mahalaya and we would have “Luchi” and “Chhola Daal” with jelebis. Mahalaya breakfast without “Jilipi”, nah, never!!! Early morning and throughout the day you would hear mahisasur mardini being played at different “Para Pujo”. Pandals are almost ready and puja committee people are busy getting things finalised.
Panchami night our guru Maa would adorn the idol with special “Abhushan” and “Ashtra”. Bodhon as we called it and Sree Sree Maa would infuse “Pran” and shakti into the idol.
On the beat of Dhak, and other instruments, its always something I looked forward to. After that there would be no sleep whole night. Next day Shashti, early morning before sun rises we would be going to the Ganges on lorry. “Kola Bou Snan”, after which the actual puja starts. A Banana plant is taken and bathed, drapped with a yellow red border new saree. Giving it the look of a newly wed bride!!!
Saptami through Dashami, puja continues with us all busy, running around, not just with pujo arrangements but also pushpanjali. Food being an important part of pujas. Saptami used to be Khichuri, Labda, Beguni. Ashtami was luchi and special bhog. Nawami was special with a special “Payesh” bhog from Sree Sree Maa besides pulao, paneer, cauliflower preparation, chutni and papad. The taste of all these food still lingers now while I write, miss them all today!!! 😦
Shandhi puja on all these days have been a special attraction for me. Besides ofcourse the Yagna. More than 200 people sitting together and chanting the
mantras while yagna is done, it would bring in a feeling I can’t even put down in words. Pandal hopping late night and having all junk food through out the night, that was added attraction. 😀
Dashami and the “Sindor” khela, that is a spectacle never to be missed. Women besides putting sindur on Maa Durga, get down to play holi with the same sindur. And then comes the moment of truth, Maa with her children would be leaving for Kailash!! Its time for immersion or as said “Bishorjon”. Sree Sree Maa does the “Boron” and bids Maa Durga goodbye with specially made sweets and “Paan” at ashram. Few with strength and few others with lot of advises and instructions, Maa and her children are loaded on lorry without any damage. We all would also board the lorries with Dhak and start towards Ganges while dancing on the beats of dhak. And then the immersion. The idols would be next boarded on boats and taken to the middle of the river where now Maa is bidden farewell, with the hope, she’ll be back after just 365 days. “Shanti Jol” is collected and we all get back with shouts “Durga mai ki Jai” and “Ashche bachor abar ashbe”.