The Tradition of Durga-Worship

  • Srimati Lal
  • India
  • Oct 18, 2013


 The 'Gharowa (Home/Domestic) Durga Puja'

This icon, photographed at a South Kolkata private residence, is a quintessential example of the 'Gharowa' or 'Shabeki' (Domestic) Durga Puja. Such a genre of beautifully-detailed icons have been worshipped at Bengali homes for over five centuries. Somewhat smaller in size than the massive 'public pandal Pujas', these artistic domestic images are often sculpted by artisans from within the neighbourhood, in antique styles befitting 'shabeki' or 'khandani' family lineages. These images show the Devi in jewel colours, with charming 'Patachitra Chaalchitras', painted by village artists, as her exclusive halo. Such Devis were typically placed in the front courtyards of neo-classical Bengali private manors, lit by the dazzling light of 'jhaar lanthans' (crystal chandeliers). Satyajit Ray documented such a 'Shabeki Gharowa Puja' in his classic 1950s film Devi, starring Sharmila Tagore as a child-bride who is envisioned by her aristocratic father-in-law as the living incarnation of Devi Durga herself. The 'Gharowa Durga' image in this photograph belongs to the Guha-Mustafi family of Lake Gardens. Technically these Pujas are meant only for the family and close friends. This manner of portraying the Devi has been maintained almost unchanged for 5 centuries --- an amazing feat of devotional domestic worship.


The 'Semi-Gharowa Family Puja', displayed on a side-road near the family house

The 'Gharowa Devi', when enlarged in size, was later extended socially, to be displayed in side-streets that were close to the original family home. Such enlarged icons are typically crafted in Kumartuli, and brought to various city neighbourhoods. These Pujas are co-funded by families and 'paara' Clubs. The stunning 'Daaker Shaaj' image seen here, of Devi Durga, her daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati, and her sons Ganesha and Kartik - all clad in pure dazzling white and silver Sola pith vestments - belongs to Lake Gardens' C-Block Mitali Sangha Puja Samiti. Sacred 'Bhog' (prasad) is cooked here with rice, daal and vegetables for 3 Puja days, and distributed to all devotees - along with a range of fresh fruits, flowers and sweets.

Another aspect of these semi-domestic Pujas is the involvement of local Youth Clubs, who provide a fine cultural environment, by performing live music, plays and stand-up skits on small stages adjoining the 'Pratima', for all 5 days of the Puja celebrations. Mitali Sangha was in fact established as a culture-club 60 years ago in Lake Gardens, and it has been organizing Durga Pujas for the past 29 tears. The atmosphere is very friendly and warm. All devotees are literally welcomed with open arms and 'kola-kuli', and new friends are made: new bonds are always forged.







The Social or 'Public Pandal Puja'

These photos of the 'Public Pandal Puja' depict the theme-based Puja held in Lake Gardens' main park, Bangur Park. Such massive Pandal-Pujas are sponsored by the entire community, rather than single families. They typically include Themes, whereby the Devi is styled according to different cultural and historic visual concepts every year - such as Bengal Terracotta, Jamini Roy's art, literary themes or Bengal history. Public Pujas include such details as the use of surreal and imaginative installations and canopied cloth 'pandals', elaborate gateways and complex illuminations at entry-points along the road --- as featured here in Rabindranath Tagore's bust at the gateway and multi-coloured massive electrical portal decorations. Popular music of all kinds is also played on loudspeakers, while the Pujas continue.









'Visarjan' (the Immersion) of Durga in the sacred river Ganga

On 'Dashami', Ma Durga Devi is carried lovingly from homes and 'pandals' onto large trucks, all the way to the Ganga at Princep Ghat, for her symbolic 'Visarjan' into the waters of the holy river. Thus she returns to the Himalayas and her consort Lord Shiva. This is a practice going back to ancient times. Men and women are emotionally-charged and weep as they bid farewell to their beloved Devi, entreating her to return the next 'Sharad' season. Princep Ghat, near Kolkata's Eden Gardens, has been witness to several thousands of immersions.The immersion is very meticulously organised by the West Bengal Government and the Police Force. Gates are deftly lowered at the banks of the Ghats, to cater to the hundreds of 'Pratimas'. Every icon is given its due time for the immersion on 'Dashami' evening - from 7 pm to midnight - in a unique ambience of peace, love, camaraderie and 'Bhakti'.



  • print
  • comnt
  • share

News from Communities

  • Friday Gurgaon Seminar$thumbimg129_Aug_2014_160822730.jpgOrange Fish
  • Gurgaon Speaks Up-Rest in Peace ''Damini''-Saturday Dec 29 @ Leisure Valley$thumbimg104_Jan_2013_143656130.jpgOrange Fish
  • Genesis Foundation Fund Raiser$thumbimg114_Aug_2012_091411630.jpgOrange Fish
  • Coca Cola Cricket trophy played in Gurgaon$thumbimg117_Mar_2012_180857977.jpgOrange Fish
  • Union Budget 2012$thumbimg116_Mar_2012_123404760.jpgOrange Fish
  • Union Budget 2012$thumbimg116_Mar_2012_122004320.jpgOrange Fish
  • Renge Art Walk$thumbimg102_Mar_2012_095312690.jpgOrange Fish
  • Friday Gurgaon Cricket team$thumbimg119_Feb_2012_195202840.jpgOrange Fish
  • Genesis Fundraiser Gurgaon$thumbimg129_Jan_2012_072409630.jpgOrange Fish
  • Gurgaon$thumbimg102_Jan_2012_165747220.jpgOrange Fish

Latest Issue


Do you think government should reconsider its policy of promoting liquor vends in Gurgaon?

votebox View Results