Hills gear up for Durga Pujas despite ongoing indefinite bandh
Darjeeling, September 18: Despite the ongoing political strife and the indefinite bandh, the resilient Hills will be commemorating Durga puja in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, like previous years.
The Hill pujas are steeped in tradition and have crossed the 100 year mark in Darjeeling and Kurseong while the Durga puja in Kalimpong will touch the 89th year mark this year.
A cloud of uncertainty surrounded the Durga puja commemoration in Kurseong this year as the iconic Rajrajeshwari Hall, the venue of the Durga puja has been razed to the ground.
On July 19, during the ongoing indefinite bandh the heritage Rajrajeshwari Hall was set on fire by unknown miscreants thereby erasing the rich history of the Bengali community of Kurseong.
"Despite all these problems we decided to go ahead with the puja that touches the 101 year mark this year. As the Hall has been gutted, the puja will take place in a pandal in the place where the Hall once stood.However the puja will be held on a very small scale this year. We have manpower constraints as well as monetary constraints," stated Arun Mohan Ghosh, Secretary of the Bengali Association of Kurseong.
Owing to the ongoing bandh majority of the organizers have relocated to the plains. Collection of donations is also a problem as there has been no business in the Hills for the past three months owing to the bandh.
The Rajrajeshwari Hall under the Bengali Association of Kurseong has a rich history. Rai Bahadur Sashi Bhusan Dey had started a Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Kurseong, in memory of his late son who had died from this disease. While he was at Kurseong, the local Bengalis approached him for his patronage in constructing a Hall for the Bengali Association to meet.
Being a philanthropist, he built the Rajrajeshwari Hall in 1930 naming it after his wife just below the TB Sanatorium in Kurseong.
The Durga Puja of the Bengali Association used to be organised in this Hall. The Bengali Association of Kurseong formed in 1908 started commemorating Durga Puja since 1915. Since 1930, the puja was being observed in this Hall. 2016 marked the centenary of the puja.
In Darjeeling, the Durga puja organized by the Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu (NNBH) Hall hits the 103-year mark this year.
The NNBHH has a rich history and was built during the British Raj. Located in Chandmari the then Indian portion of the town below the Market Square. It was a two storied stone structure and contained a spacious hall in which the public meetings of the Hindu community were held.
From 1914 started the Durga Puja in the temple, organized by the local Bengali populace. Great names like Swami Vivekananda, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan, Sister Nivedita, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Acharya J. C. Bose and the great revolutionary Bagha-Jatin had all paid visits to this hall. It is said that even K.L. Saigal, the legendary singer had once offered pushpanjali during the Durga Puja.
From Pushpanjali to Bhog and Arati everything echoes of tradition -preserved religiously through the ages. No pandal is erected for the puja and the idol is placed in the main altar of the temple belonging to the NNBHH.
In 2014- the centenary year, a unique immersion ceremony had been organized whereby the idol was taken to a mountain stream by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (Toy Train) for immersion.
"We will continue with the puja. We have already booked the idol at Kumortuli, Siliguri. On September 23 the idol will be brought to Darjeeling from Siliguri. The Dhakis (traditional drum players) have been informed and they will be arriving before the pujas. It will be a bit difficult as everything has to be brought from the plains owing to the bandh in the Hills. However we will manage," stated Saibal Chakraborty, organizer.
However, commemorations will be toned down this year.
"The business establishments have been closed for the past 3 months. Salaries of employees haven't been regular too. The Hills are reeling under a financial crunch. Under such conditions asking for donations is a problem. However there are many enthusiastic devotees who are voluntarily coming and helping us in cash and kind" added Chakraborty.
The puja at Kalimpong organized by Milani Club hits the 89th year mark this year.
"This year we will be organizing the puja on a humble scale at the Thakurbari Temple," stated Monojit Dasgupta, Secretary, Milani Club.