A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee
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While most of the Indian states observe Diwali, West Bengal witnesses a traditional ethnic style of celebrating the first new moon night of Hindu calendar month ‘Kartik’ by worshiping Goddess Kali. The same day is dedicated to the puja of Goddess Lakshmi by others, but Bengalis perform stringent devotional sacrifices towards Goddess Kali at home, public pandals and cremation grounds (especially where she is believed to dwell) on the eve of Bhoot Chaturdashi.
Of late, like Durga Puja, Kali Puja (also known as Shyama Puja as ‘Shyama’ is the other name of the deity) is also becoming a festive extravaganza of the city of joy, especially in Hooghly district. Some of the top theme based public pujas of 2018 which caught eyes of the devotees include Meghdoot Club, Apanjan Club, Runner Club, Bharat Sangha and Rabindra Nagar Club.
Pandal of Meghdoot Club (Theme: Marble Buddha Temple of Thailand)
Idol of Meghdoot Club
Pandal of Apanjan Club (Theme: Jute Handicrafts of Bengal)
Idol of Apanjan Club
Idol of Runner Club (Theme: Dakshineshwar Kali Maa)
Pandal of Bharat Sangha (Theme: Dacoit’s Den)
Idol of Bharat Sangha
Idol of Rabindra Nagar Club (Theme: Traditional)
The household festivity of Goddess Kali was first adopted by Raja Krishna Chandra during early 18th century. Since then, it was patronized by eminent Bengali families and wealthy landlords as an annual domestic ritual. It is typically characterized by an overnight worshiping of the Goddess, followed by animal sacrifices at midnight. The idol is mostly created on the same day of the puja and is completed before sunset.
The domestic Kali Puja of Somnagar village’s ‘Bandyopadhyay’ family is one among those ancient heritage pujas of Hooghly district which has been continuing with deep devotion since last 600 years. The village offers a pristine countryside full of lush green paddies, hardly 50 kilometers from Kolkata and is well connected by both rail and road.
Pristine countryside of Somnagar village
Folklores say, centuries ago a young elite Brahmin was travelling through this village on a summer afternoon. Out of immense fatigue, he chose to take rest under an old Banyan tree. He did not realize when his eyes caught a doze. It was in sleep he met Goddess Kali who instructed the Brahmin to patron her at Somnagar and worship every year on the new moon night of ‘Kartik’ month. A year later, he built a house in the village and constructed a big ‘atchala’ (temple with eight pillars) inside his domestic premises to patronize Goddess Kali in the household. Since then the ‘Bandyopadhyay’s are celebrating Kali Puja with loud pomp and show at their ancestral house in Somnagar. The ‘Sankalpa’ (holy oath) of the puja is still taken in the name of the head of the ‘Bandyopadhyay’ family.
Glimpses of 600 year’s old Kali Puja of Somnagar’s ‘Bandyopadhyay’ family
Making of the idol at temple premises on the same day of the puja
The idol after eye donation – ready to be worshiped
The idol is created at the temple premises on the same day of the puja and the rituals are completed over a huge ‘Home Yajna’ (fire sacrifice) followed by animal slaughters. Next morning, the sacred meat is distributed in the entire village as holy ‘Prasad’ (offering) of Goddess Kali.
Kali Puja rituals completed overnight
Sacred animal sacrifices during midnight
Even today, the whole family gathers during the festival, children light up the house with candles and enjoy the puja together. They also open doors to guests to experience their ethnic celebrations during the festive days. It’s a lifetime experience indeed to witness such a vintage yet ceremonial celebration of the festival of lights around this corner of Bengal. Why don’t you plan your next Diwali holidays here?
House brightly lit up with candles