Bonedi Barir Durga Puja of Kolkata: Photo-walk in the Century Old Heritage Houses Amid Celebration!

Bonedi Barir Durgapuja in Kolkata
An Aatchala Durga Idol on the make in Kumartuli! Traditionally, all the Bonedi Bari Durgapujas are worshipped on Aatchala!

The Bonedi Bari Durgapuja of Kolkata: A Forgotten World?

In a Durgapuja world of abstract themes, artistic prowess and the overwhelming feel of a grand carnival, the Bonedi bari Durgapujas of Kolkata beams with pride of heritage!

For the uninitiated, Durgapuja was celebrated in the old Rajbari (the royal palaces), the elite families, most Hindu landlords and heads of contemporary society in the British era! The initial days of East India Company rule had pumped in a lot of money, often amounting to 500 CR (yes, you read that right) in today’s currency, injecting a lot of pomp and grandeur in Durgapuja which amounts as a festival in today’s Kolkata!

By the end of the 1930s, the flow of British contribution started to dry down, causing certain localities taking the onus of celebrating Durgapuja of their own! Everyone from every strata of society contributed in cash or kind! From Thakudalan (the pillared house of the goddess at one side of the courtyard with marble floor and intricate architectural works), Durga beckons in the bamboo made makeshift pandals of every Para (the loose term for a locality in Bengali!)

The Buniyadi (Bonedi, meaning elite and opulent) families continued with traditional celebration but cut down on the pomp!

There are numerous families engaged in Durgapuja celebration. There was a time when Sayantan’s family had engaged in traditional Durgapuja celebration, however, a traumatic mishap forced them to stop it!

This post mostly takes you through the old lanes of North Kolkata as I went on exploring most of the Bonedi Barir Durgapujas by sheer serendipity!

If you want to delve deeper into the Bonedi Family Pujas of Kolkata, I suggest this wonderful read Revelry, Rivalry and Longing for the Goddesses of Bengal by Rachell Fell McDermott. A fantastic book that delves deep into the history of Old Kolkata and Goddess (Shakti) worship sect of the Hindus!

 

1. Sen Bari: the Serendipitous Encounter of Bonedi Bari Durgapuja!

Address: Near Abhedananda Street and Ahiritola Crossing (opposite Company Bagan)

Nearest metro station: Shovabazar Sutanuti

We were exploring the long winding roads of North Kolkata in search of the Ahiritola Sarbojonin, a rather old community Durgapuja, when we stumbled on an old house, all decked up the entrance with banana leaves, Ghoti inked with Swastika, Alpona (the Bengali equivalent of Rangoli, made with grains of rice).

 

Also read, A photo-walk through Kumartuli where idols are made with love!

We hesitated before entering, it was someone’s house! We were uninvited!

A lady clad in Red border, white-body tant Saree and a round red vermillion tip on her forehead smiled at us from inside! It was reassuring and we entered!

It was Sen Bari Durgapuja. It has been celebrated for quite some time now!

Durgapuja is a family affair here!

 

The ornaments are made of gold and used only during Durgapuja!

 

It was the Sen Bari Puja that intrigued me to explore more of Bonedi Bari Puja of Kolkata. Tucked in the mystery of days bygone, the heritage pujas have long lost in the popularity count in comparison to the grand Barwari Pujas of Kolkata. However, the charm remains for those who can see. I researched for a few days and zeroed in on a particular locality, north Kolkata for the remaining days of Puja!

 

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2. Shovabazar Rajbari: Borotorof (the house of the elder prince)

Address: Raja Nabakrishna Street, Sovabazar, Kolkata – 700005 (opposite Jaipuria College)

Nearest Metro Station: Shovabazar Sutanuti

 

The king Nabakrishna Deb had two sons. The elder one, the adopted son, Gopimohan, inherited the Chototorof Palace while his biological son, the younger one, Rajkrishna inherited the Borotorof!

Arguably, the most popular rajbari of north Kolkata is Shovabazar Rajbari! Go early or be prepared to face a long queue!

 

The Rajbari all lit up to welcome guests!

Bonedi Barir Durgapuja

 

 

 

It was rumoured that Devi comes here to enjoy the extravagant dance and play that took place in the Naachghor (Baiji (courtesan) dance was prevalent in those days).


A Moira making Nimki at the Shovabazar rajbari! You can buy a ticket and have Bhog for lunch on Ashatami!

3. Shovabazar Rajbari: Chototorof!

Address: Raja Nabakrishna Street, Sovabazar, Kolkata – 700005 (opposite Jaipuria College)

Nearest Metro Station: Shovabazar Sutanuti

Often termed as the new age Maddox Square of Kolkata, the Chototorof Rajbari of Shovabazar is better maintained in my opinion and stages a fantastic Durgapuja!

 

The house is built with old school red bricks staying true to British influence while the thakurdalan is ivory while!

The Belgium Glass at the background is an imported antique piece!

Shovabazar rajbari Chototorof bonedi bari

 

One of the most instagrammable places in Kolkata, especially if you are into heritage places!

 

4. Dutt Bari Puja at the Balaram Dey Street (Also known as the Ghosh Barir Puja at the Balaram Dutt Street)

Address : 159, Balaram Dey Street, Kolkata

Nearest metro: Girish Park

Staying true to the ancient rules, the idol is carried on the shoulders of family members (now the sixth generation) on a bamboo and not on a truck!

The puja here is 136 years old!

Notice the Singhashan of Devi, very unique to this family!

 

Water from the Ganges is stored in the earthen pitchers by adding camphor and used for rituals. Red and white Chandan are being prepared for Puja!

Dorbesh offered on Bhog by this family is very famous!

 

Alpona: a common name of the Bengali household too!

When I entered the premises, there was no one but a local man in front of the goddess on a Shashthanggo pronam (lying down on the floor and praying). It is surreal to think since Ahiritola or Bagbazar pujas are in close proximity where millions arrive till midnight for pandal hopping!

Also read, A detailed guide to Kolkata Durgapuja for the beginner!

 

5. Jorasanko Dawn Bari: Narasimha Dawn Family’s Puja

Address: 20 Vivekananda Road, Kolkata 700006 (beside the old Bheem Chandra Nag Sweet shop)

Metro Station: Girish Park

The Bonedi family runs a business of guns and performs gun salute for the Devi on Dashami!

The Devi is adorned with plenty of ornaments. “Maa” is written on tnecklaceese!

Look at Karthik (the idol on the rightmost). The idol is a style statement of old-school fashion!

The Dawn Bari Durgapuja is held at a Thakurdalan, very distinctive with paisley work and green and red floral artwork!

 

The Thakurdalan as seen from a far! A beauty!

the houses welcome “mango-people” on all the five days of Puja. Families live on every floor. Regular life flows at other times!

The family is originally a descendant of Kotulpur, Bankura. I was thrilled to invent a Bankura connection in the heart of Kolkata!

Dhaak, Vivekananda, Deer horn: all are juxtaposed!

A photographer’s delight, this place!

The grandfather clock!

Look at the Gini gold waistband of the lion and the silver net!

 

 

 

Kolabou, Nabapatrika. The banana leaves worshipped as Ganesh’s wife. Also decked up in a new saree and gold jewellery!

The house is everything a happy joint family that can never be pictured! It takes you back to the heydays of Kolkata!

The entrance to Dawn Bari, very typical of North Kolkata old houses. A narrow road leads to a sprawling courtyard. I have seen similar houses in Hanoi, Vietnam!

 

6. Jorasanko Dawn House

Address: 12 A Shibkrishna Dawn Lane, Kolkata (near to the Narasimha Dawn Bari)

Nearest Metro Station: Girish park

Legends have it, Devi Durga comes here to deck up in gold jewellery! Besides gold, they have also got emerald and diamond studded ornaments for the idols. they were imported from Europe back in the days of East India Company!

 

The house befits a coal mine owner from early 19th century! It is very well maintained and showcases the grandeur of the past!

The idol and the Chalcitro as the backdrop!

Kartik, believed to be Durga’s son, makes another contemporary fashion statement! The similar style of cap was used by Raja Rammohan Roy, who was instrumental in banning barbaric Sotidaho of Hindu society! (The practice where they would burn the widow along with the dead-body!)

The consorts of the idol, married and not found in Barwari Pujas!

This house is a delight to the eyes!

 

two curtains are in place to cover the BTS (Behind the scene) of Bonedi Barir Durgapuja?

It states the Durga puja is 179 years old! “Sharodiya Durgotsav!”

 

7. The Khelat Ghosh House at Pathuriaghata

Address: 47 Pathuriaghata Street, Kolkata

Nearest Metro: Girish Park

(If visiting this area, make sure to pay a visit to the Punte Kali Tala as well! It is an old Kali temple. On the Ashtami of Durgapuja, a sacrifice of goat takes place here. You will get a taste of the famous Niramish Mangsho, the vegetarian Goatmeat here.) 

The palatial building of Khelat Ghosh strikes as an astonishing architectural marvel as the regal lions made of marble and huge pillars welcome you to the courtyard! The German architecture company Martin and Burn had planned and executed the building!

 

History stays a witness, this massive mansion built by khelat Ghosh, the Diwan of east India Company, was known for his “Babuana”, a certain way of life that thrived of show and pomp!

 

This long marble hall was once smeared with Abir and dance performance took place on it!

The thakurdalan of babu Khelat Ghosh!

 

The exquisite “Daker Saj” of the idol! The silver foils which used to be imported! Daak is Bengali for Mail!

 

 

 

I regret not visiting this place early in the morning, as photos would look stunning at that time!

Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, the author of Pather Panchali, was a private tutor in this house!

Serendipitous Finds in Pathuriaghata!

While walking in the narrow alleys of Pathuriaghata, I stumbled upon many small pleasures of life that reinstate my love for Kolkata! One of them was this unnamed Puja! It is in one of those old houses where Kolkata Municipality has donated the “Beware, Dangerous House” plate, meaning it can crumble down anytime!

Banyan trees and the likes have found a way to live and grow in the old bricks! Residents do not speak Bengali and one room is shared by many!

It was once a “Bonedi House” but the residents have given up, sold the property and the house is overwhelmed with old grace and pressure of coming time!

Upon asking about the owners, “Haam ka jane babu?” told us one of the residents who run an iron shop. No, he does not sell iron. He gets his daily share of cotton clothes from a Dhopa of the locality and irons them diligently. His pieces of equipment do not need electric. Coal and an earthen oven suffice.

 

These electric wears testify the tales that others will hesitate to say!

The makeshift Puja in the Thakurdalan, or the remnants of it! No dearth of love though!

Notice the Rudrakkho and the attire of the Purohit. The customs are mostly Bihari!

The famous Pathuriaghata Byayam Samiti Kalipuja. The idol is on the make!

 

8. Mallick Bari, the Durgapuja of Baishnabdas Mallick Family!

Address: 32 Darpanayaran Thakur Street, Kolkata

Nearest Metro Station: Girish park

This house is tucked inside a pretty house and an even prettier lawn! I also met Indrani here, my batchmate from Bethune. She is the daughter of this house, now married to a family in Bou Bazar!

 

The beautiful Thakurdalan of Mallick Family!

 

And the sprawling lawn where residents laze around!

 

 

A house dedicated to the Bhog of Thakur!

 

Durga is be-seated by Shib Thakur, on his left and is seen with only two hands and no weapon. This is in line with the Baishnav faith of the family which emphasises on peace and love!

The Chalchitro is hand painted by a family member!

The lion is so small and cute, not frightening at all! Another example of Vaishnab ideology!

 

9. Chatubabu-Latubabu Mansion or Ramdulal Nibas

Address: Ramdulal Nibas”, 67E Beadon Street ( Also known as Dani Ghosh Street), Kolkata (the road behind Bethune School)

Nearest metro station: Girish Park

Never knew this heritage house is situated so near to my school! In fact all of them were! The Chatubabu Latubabu mansion celebrated their 248-year-old Durgapuja in 2018!

 

During Aarti on Ashtami Sandhipuja!

 

 

The Dhakis stage a phenomenal performance!

Durga is for everyone!

 

10. Mitra Bariat Darjipara

Address: 19 Nilmoni Mitra Street, Kolkata (they have two houses, I missed the second one which is situated at 42, Beadon Row)

Nearest Metro Station: Girish Park

The Red bricked building of Darjipara reminded me of Ashapurna Devi’s Prothom Protishruti several times!

The Mitras were business family. One of the business in their portfolio was to trade precious stones and jewellery to nawab Sirajudullah, the last emperor of undivided Bengal!

In the Bonedi Baris, the lion as a Bahon is replaced with a horse. They say this was to appease the British rulers who thought Lion, a British empirical symbol, will be demeaned if seated at the feat of natives’ idol!

Far from the billions who walked on the Kolkata street on the Ashtami night to celebrate Durgapuja!

 

11. Pal Bari at Kashi Bose Lane

Address: Kashi Bose lane. The road opposite to Bethune school if entering from Beadon street.

Nearest Metro: Girish Park

As you leave the famous Kashi Bose Lane Puja, on the left on the road, you will find a humble house standing with pitchers and Banana leaves by the side! That is Pal bari for you, another find from the streets of Kolkata (and I assure you there are many alike. I spotted plenty of houses with doors closed at the wee hours of the day as I was returning home after a whole night of pandal hopping! They hardly find a mention in the world wide web, yet!)

The Pal Bari puja is a 76 year old puja!

 

Naibadhya ( নৈবেদ্য) on offer to the goddess at pal Bari! It has Gobindobhog Rice along with fruits and dates and various types of nuts!

 

12. Sardar Bari (Shuktara) Durgapuja

Address: Nalin Sarkar Street. Also known as Shuktara in Hatibagan area. Reach Star theatre and ask any hawker on the footpath.

Nearest Metro Station: Shovabazar Sutanuti 

The most exquisite Bonedi Bari of the entire north Kolkata, I felt as I entered the premises!

 

Notice the beautiful ivory white Thakurdalan of Sardar Bari!

It was the 77th year celebration of Sardar bari Durgapuja!

Notice the consorts on both the sides of Devi: known as Jaya and Bijaya!

The face of the idol is very distinctive at Sardar Bari Durgapuja!

13. Kundu Bari, Hatibagan

Address: It is dicey to state the address since I found this Puja after leaving the Mandap of Hatibagan Sarbojoneen! However, the Kundus of Hatibagan are famous in the locality!

Metro: Shovabazar Sutanuti!

 

 

the house does not feature the idol in Thakurdalan but the Baithakkhana, what you will identify as Drawing room!

14. Dey bari, Hatibagan

 

 

As a three-year-old Puja, it does not exactly count as a Bonedi Bari one but I loved the feel and vibe of the quintessential B”arir Durgapuja”!

 

 

Notice the Koriborga at the ceiling, an old architectural style!

Everything you need for Durgapuja!

Sarees and lotus flowers (108 of them) on offer!

 

15. Borobari, Sabarna Roychowdhuri, Barisha, Sakherbazar

Address: Sabarna Para Road, Barisha, Kolkata

Nearest metro: Tollygunge (and take an auto to Sakherbazar)

Sabarnas owned Kalikata, one of the three villages (Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata) that gave birth to Calcutta!

 

The Aatchala murti at Sabarnas dates back to the era of jehangir, a time when Man Singh was the subeidar of Bengal! It is arguably the first organised Durgapuja of Bengal!

 

 

This is very close to my home. I missed the first four days and went only on Dashami to witness Boron, rituals performed before immersing the idol in Ganges!

Notice the distinctive color of the idol!

 

16. Mejobari, Sabarna Roychowdhuri, Barisha, Sakherbazar

Just beside the old house, the “Mejobari” is situated! It is indeed an honour to step inside this house premises that differs dramatically with Behala localities cluttered with disturbing appearances of flats and complexes!

The empty Thakurdalan on the last day of Durgapuja, Dashami!

One of the family members fixing her trident!

Such a lively face!

Traditions are taught and treasured!

 

17. Aahiritola Sarbojonin, not a Bonedi Barir Puja yet a Bonedi Barir Pujo!

Ahiritola is a Barwari puja, meaning Durgapuja performed by a locality where people contribute, make a committee and take the onus! This year, they became the talk of the town by replicating the traditional Bonedi Barir Puja!

Thankfully, we visited it the last and truth be told, was a little underwhelmed. Afterall, history and heritage has to be earned with time and can not gained overnight!

The Andarmahal which looks exactly like the Dawn Bari of Jorasanko!

 

Things to remember before visiting the Bonedi Barir Puja!

  1. The Internet is a good place to start but keep your eyes open and interact with locals who will always guide you to the hidden treasures of a locality!
  2. The pujas are open till 11 PM but it is advisable that you do not visit them in ungodly hours!
  3. The Bonedi houses welcome devotees and photo enthusiasts with open arms during Durgapuja.
  4. Wear conservative clothes since this is a family affair!

 

 

Nabadurga being made in Kumartuli, to be sent off to Bardhaman for a Bonedi Barir Puja! Nine styles of Durga idols (read different colors) are made and they are very different than the Durga idols seen in Kolkata!

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Bonedi Barir Durga Puja of Kolkata: Photo-walk in the Century Old Heritage Houses Amid Celebration!

  • Robin Murshid

    Love the brilliant blog post and I wonder how many hours you have put into research to produce such a gem! I will take a print out of the same and will make it a point to visit all of them coming Durgapuja! I have forwarded the same to my family members as well! I hope to read more hidden gems of Kolkata through your incredible write up! God bless!

    Question: do you have any information of the Bonedi Bari Kalipuja in Kolkata? Asking since I am in the city during Kalipuja!

  • When I read your article, I was thinking about the emotions which ran down my heart and mind while passing through the same lanes.. Photographs and the emotions behind it are so real yet takes us to the rich history and the culture which our ancestors held at that point of time . Proud to be a Bangali!! very well written ..

  • Kasturi Mitra

    This is a wonderful post. I read it twice. Your effort to wander all through the lanes and the chaos is praiseworthy. But you made it and it’s a precious album for you and all of us. Thanks a lot.

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