As West Bengal gearing up to celebrate Durga Puja as it leads to a memorable experience, there are some aristocratic families which continue with their century-old traditions and celebrate the festival. Away from the glitter of big-budget arrangements, Durga Pujas organised by erstwhile zamindar (landlord) families in Kolkata over the past few centuries continue to be a hit among revellers.
One such family is of Sabarna Roy Choudhury. A vibrant past and glorious blending of history and cultural tradition might be an appropriate way to portray the history and Durga Puja of the Choudhury family. It is being said among the locals that the history of Kolkata is incomplete without knowing the history of the Choudhury family as it was linked with almost all major historical events in the capital city, starting from the construction of the first road, pucca house, Durga Puja, leasing of Kalikata, Sutanuti, and Gobindapur to the British, construction of Kalighat temple complex, and the list goes on.
As per the Choudhury family, they trace their lineage from Maharshi Sabarno, whose descendent Sage Vedagarbha came and settled in Bengal region in 10th century. The 412-year-old Durga Puja of the Choudhury family in Barisha area in the southern part of the Kolkata city was started by Lakshmikanta Gangopadhyay and his wife Bhagawati in 1610. The family got zamindari from Akbar through Man Singh.
The family is now spread over various parts of Bengal and organisers of eight ‘Bonedi bari’ Durga Pujas – six in Kolkata and one each in Nimta and Birati areas in North 24 Parganas district.
Even after 412 years, Durga Puja is being celebrated with same enthusiasm, devotion and spiritual beliefs. Talking about the arrangements made for this year’s Durga Puja festival, a family member named Sucharita Roy Choudhury, said, “The ‘Maha Bhog’ here is a stunning mixture comprising of pulao, ghee bhaat along with dried fruits and fried vegetables. On Dashami, Durga is uniquely treated with panta bhat (soaked and fermented rice). In this family, traditions of vaishnavs, shakto and shoibo (tridhara Sangha) is followed and worshipped”.
Meanwhile, Devarshi Roy Choudhury, the curator of Sabarna Sangraha Shala, said, “Though over last two years due to Covid-19 pandemic, outsiders were not allowed but from this year on everything will be back to normal and Sabarna Roy Choudhury family Durga Puja will be back in its glorious form”.
Hence, it goes without saying that Durga Puja is not just a festival to worship the Goddess, it is a carnival.