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Sabarna Roy Choudhury bari - The first Durga Parivaar

www.durgapujaonline.com has discussed most of the Durga Pujas in the North- South section of Kolkata but friends an important segment has still remain untouched . Yes we are talking about the Durga Puja in Royal Households , the part without those participation and mention the entire celebration of Durga Pujo remains incomplete. Ma Durga was initially worshipped in the courtyard of the Royal families of Bengal with grandeur and the correct amount of religious connotations. 

Most of the Pujos in the culturally staunch and heritage families of West Bengal dates back to the early seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Against this backdrop it would be interesting to study the history of Durga Pujo in one of the most important families of West Bengal. Savarna Ray Chaudhuri  family has always played a pioneering role in the Traditional domain of Durga Pujo. 

Along with the Nadia Raj, the Savarna Ray Chaudhuri-s are credited to be the oldest inheritor of 'modern' Durga puja in Bengal. Bhavananda Majumdar, the founder of Nadia Raj, and Lakshmikanta Majumdar, the first zamindar of the Savarna family, began  their respective Durga Pujas at Krishnanagar and Barisha, in the early years of the seventeenth century. 

The Durga Puja initiated by Raja Bhavananda still continues with the same zest and enthusiasm at the Nadia Palace, Krishnanagar,which is reminiscent of the magnificence and splendour of the past,  a similar pattern is however conspicuous  in the case of Lakshmikanta's puja that he is said to have started in 1610A.D. in Barisha village. However, with the division of property (zamindari) among Lakshmikanta's progeny, the number of pujas hosted in the Savarna family also increased. Today the family celebrates a total of eight Durga Pujas.

The game of power and politics is indeed ironical as it endows victory on one and a sense of loss and gloom prevail on the other. A very exciting turn of events took place in the History of Bengal in 1605-6 when Maharaja Man Singh of Amber , the foremost Mughal General defeated Maharaja Pratapaditya of Jessore , the local Hindu potentate. The new Mughal Emperor at Agra , Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jehangir Padshash Gazi conferred on his general the Governorship of the richest province of his Empire. 

It was now Man Singh's responsibility to show his allegiance to his devotees who had been instrumental in curbing the power of Pratapaditya or in establishing the supremacy of the new administration. During such important circumstances the names of two young men belonging to the local aristocracy came to the forefront- Lakshmikanta Gangopadhyaya and Bhavananda Bandopadhyaya.

Both of them had been made 'Majmadars' (Majumdars or revenue administrators) earlier and had showed their hard work and diligence on numerous  occasions during the previous regime.  Man Singh utilized his strength, power and capabilities and  secured from the Emperor at Agra the title of 'Raja' and a vast jagirdari spread across fourteen parganas for Bhavananda Majumdar; while for Lakshmikanta Majumdar, who was also the son of his diksha-guru Kamadeva Brahmachari,  secured a tax-free jagirdari of eight parganas in lower Bengal and the title of 'Ray-Majumdar-Chaudhuri'. 

Raja Bhavananda Ray went on to found the Nadia Raj, which would reach great heights during the regime of Maharaja Krishnachandra Ray in the mid-eighteenth century, the most illustrious ruler of this family. Similarly, Ray Lakshmikanta Majumdar Chaudhuri (1570-1649)  moved to the samatata and concentrated in reinforcing his position and estates. Both these men of repute and esteem were devising ways to celebrate their accomplishments and achievements and hence arranged worshipping Ma Durga, rejoicing the autumnal festivity to the fullest. It is clearly written in the Shastras that worshipping Ma Durga equals the benefits reaped due to Ashwamedha Yagna .

Lakshmikanta Majumdar,  started his own puja of saparivara-mahisasuramardini-dasabhuja-durga in distant Barisha village, far away from his ancestral home at Halisahar. As per family records, the year was 1610. The puja was organized   inside a thatched-roofed aatchaalaa without any pomp and show, the arrangement  was simple but abounded in religious fervour . This was disagreeable  with the stature and fortune of Lakshmikanta who was no less than a king; however, the result was brilliant  -- an overwhelming participation of his subjects from far and wide. 

Lakshmikanta's puja has been continuing very much in the same place uninterruptedly for more than four centuries now. Though the traditional aatchaalaa (meaning, eight-roofed structure) has made way for an RCC-structure and the large social gatherings of thousands of people from far wide have long been discontinued, the rituals of this centuries-old puja have not the least been tampered with. 

The rituals of the Durga Puja in the Savarna family are conducted as per the norms and guidelines laid down by Vidyapati in his 'magnum-opus' treatise Sri-sri-durga-bhakti- tarangini.With the division of estate among Lakshmikanta's progeny, many of his descendants later started their own Durga Pujas in their individual households. 

Quite a few of them have permanently been discontinued, while a few, though discontinued at some point of time during the early decades of the twentieth century due to some reason or the other, have again been revived during last three decades. Today Lakshmikanta's descendants, who are famously known in Bengal's social history as the Savarna Ray Chaudhuris, as the owners of Kolkata, as the principal servitors of Goddess Kali at Kalighat, celebrate eight Durga Pujas in their different households in and around Kolkata. While six of them are performed in their various households in Barisha, one each is celebrated at the family's home in Pathanpaur and at Nimta-Birati respectively. 

None of these pujas are however less than 200 years old. Eventhough the family stands divided and celebrates so many Durga Pujas, the one founded by Ray Lakshmikanta Majumdar Chaudhuri at Barisha's Saanjhaar Aatchaalaa has neither lost its significance nor its ambiance  and stands out as the 'first' and the 'original'. Though the ritual of sacrificing animals like goats and buffaloes have been discontinued in all the pujas in the Savarna households today,attention is paid to strictly adhere to   the other rituals with sanctity and devotion.

www.durgapujaonline.com has come across some mementos of Savarna Ray Chaudhuri Durga Pujo, we saw a Durga Pujo picture of the year 1925  with  Kulapurohit Narayan Chandra Mukhopadhyaya, Kinsu Kumar , Sitansu Kumar, Jagadish Kumar and Nibaran Kumar, the then family members glorifying the Durga Pujo tradition.

Friends Savarna Ray Chaudhuri Durga Pujo is a vast and elaborate topic. www.durgapujaonline.com has just attempted to provide a brief outline to its readers so that you can have an idea of this royal family's lineage and their Durga Pujo.
Sabarna Roy Choudhury bari - The first Durga Parivaar Sabarna Roy Choudhury bari - The first Durga Parivaar Reviewed by Web Strategy on September 18, 2010 Rating: 5

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