President set to offer prayers to Durga at family home

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Suri (WB), Oct 18: Protocol has made way for tradition it seems at Miriti, where President Pranab Mukherjee will worship his family deity, Devi Durga, at his ancestral house in West Bengal's Birbhum district beginning Sunday.

Though the matter of protocol is more important this time, the President will take part in all puja rituals, according to his family and the district administration. Arrangements have been made accordingly, but some change may take place finally, when probably for the first time, a President will worship his family deity as a priest.

The first citizen will reach Miriti, around 240 km from Kolkata on Oct 19 by helicopter and will stay till Oct 23, District Magistrate Jagdish Prasad Meena said. Barring one or two times during the five decades of political life, Mukherjee has arrived in Miriti every year to offer puja to his family deity. Despite being a very important minister of the central government then, Mukherjee has always spent the four days of the pujas in his ancestral house as a family member. Mukherjee has been very sincere to the tradition established by his grandfather Jangaleswar Mukherjee.

Till last year, Mukherjee went on foot to the village canal to fill an earthen pot with water, a ritual of Durga puja, and recited from Chandi, the scriptures. But it is not yet clear to what extent the President-priest will perform the puja rituals and whether he will venture to the canal or not. The ghat at the canal has been reconstructed and fenced off. The temple too has been renovated as also the main entrance, the boundary-walls and the compound under the supervision of Abhijit Mukherjee, his son.

An employee of the Mukherjee household said the house has a fresh coat of paint after a gap of around fifteen years. The Durga puja has not been a grand affair at the Mukherjee household, with visitors struck by the simplicity of the arrangements and cordiality. Thousands of people including VIPs have partaken of 'prasad' sitting in a makeshift pandal and an unassuming Mukherjee humbly requesting everybody not to leave without having prasad.

Mukherjee, during the Puja days, spends time chatting with family members, old friends and others. Though it is assumed that this picture will not be the same this year because of protocol and security, family members and those engaged in the arrangements are confident that tradition will have the last word over protocol.

PTI

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