Wednesday, 16 September 2009


119-year puja with 177-year-old handwritten Scripture in Dinhata

The community Durga puja of Mahamaya-pat in Dinhata turns into its 119th year. It is one of the oldest pujas in Cooch Behar district after the Baro Devi puja of Cooch Behar royal family.

Mr Pran Gopal Chakraborty, popularly known as Kanu Thakur, is performing the puja since 1980. He performs the puja following the diktat of a 177-year-old manuscript written on palm-leaves. A few generations back this manuscript was written by one of his forefathers.

According to sayings, the then ruler of Cooch Behar, Maharaja Nripendra Narayan took an initiative to lay rail track from Jainti in Dooars to Rangpur (now in Bangladesh) through Alipurduar, Cooch Behar and Dinhata. For that work a number of labourers came from different areas. Huge quantity of stones and boulders were also carried in from distant areas. It is in 1885-86. One day the labourers engaged in the rail-laying job found a large snake that was trying to guard a round shaped luminous stone. On that day, in an oracle from the sky Devi Mahamaya asked the labourers to worship Her. The incident created a furore in those days. The labourers then started worshiping the round shaped stone as the idol of Devi Mahamaya, according to the sayings.

There is a different story too. A labourer got fainted after a lightning-like incident when he struck that stone during earthwork with a spade. Others rushed to him and nursed him to recover from the shock. After hearing the story they decided to offer puja to the luminous stone. The stone is still getting puja at the same place in the Mahamaya temple situated near Dinhata railway station. Later, locals of Dinhata town came forward for community Durga puja that started at Mahamaya-pat in 1891.

On behalf of Maa Mahamaya-pat Committee Mr Bibhu Ranjan Saha said that the puja is still going on maintaining all age-old rituals and devotion. A mela (fair) is also organised during the puja-days.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


 Artisans busy in making the idol of Baro Devi at Devibari temple in Cooch Behar on Tuesday.


Human blood needed in Baro Devi puja

The tradition of human sacrifice (Nara-Boli) is still on at the puja of Baro Devi of Cooch Behar. Since human sacrifice is not possible these days, that tradition is maintained symbolically by sacrificing a human image made of rice-powder on the Maha-Astami night during Gupta-puja (secret worship). Human blood is needed to perform the Gupta-puja.

Like previous years Mr Shiben Roy of Kaljani village is the man to supply the blood by piercing his fingers as a hereditary act. The Cooch Behar Debottar Trust Board is to pay him Rs 500 for the act. The Board is running under the state tourism department.

It is said that human sacrifice was a reality at the regime of Maharaja Nara Narayan. Once he reportedly sacrificed 150 persons to Baro Devi and for that act he earned fame in those days. Later, the system become discontinued, but the tradition of human sacrifice is still followed by symbolic sacrifice.

Sacrifice is a major part of the Baro Devi puja. Goats, buffaloes, hogs and numerous pigeons are sacrificed here. Sacrifice of hog is a speciality of Baro Devi puja, which is done during Chaliya-Bariya puja ritual. The DTB purchased three buffaloes this year for the 'bali' performance in three temples.

Baro Devi is a special form of Goddess Durga worshiped by the Cooch Behar royal family. Maharaja Nara Narayan initiated the puja in 1533, as the saying goes. The image of Baro Devi is totally different from the familiar Durga idols. Devi Durga's four sons and daughters are absent here. Jaya and Bijaya are here to replace them. The cult-animals are jointly a tiger and a lion, instead of a single lion.

According to sayings, Mararaja Nara Narayan saw the Devi in this form in his dream when he was on fasting for days to get blessings from the Goddess. Later, he introduced the puja of Baro Devi and the clay-image was made following his description. Till now the image is identical to the previous ones to keep the tradition alive.

As a hereditary act, Mr Punyeswar Chitrakar is making the idol this year, on the age-old and permanent platform, following traditional sacred rules. He is now busy in the idol making with a few other helpers at the Baro Devi temple situated at Devibari in Cooch Behar town. The DTB is to pay him Rs 4,200. Raw materials are being supplied by the DTB.

Though Raj-days have gone, the rituals and systems of performance of the Baro Devi puja and the construction of the clay-image are almost similar to the earlier days, under the present Marxist regime too. The Debottar Trust Board, running under state government patronage, is very much cautious in maintaining all the traditional rituals.

The puja of Baro Devi ends on Maha-Navami. The large image is sliced into pieces and immersed into Jamuna (Lamba) Dighi. In those Raj-days the Maharaja sitting on the royal elephant set a Khanjan (wagtail) bird free on Bijoya Dashami during Yatra-puja ritual. According to the sayings, Cooch Behar Maharajas had to start for conquering new regions following the flight-route of the bird. It was 1969, when a Khanjan was set free for the last time.

A fair is also organised during the puja days surrounding the age-old Baro Devi temple at Debi Bari in Cooch Behar. Numerous devotees and puja viewers from distant places come to witness the puja and offer anjali to the Baro Devi on the Maha-Astami day.