So it took me almost a year to sit down and complete this draft that I started writing after last year’s Durga puja. When we talk about Durga Puja in Kolkata, our discussion revolves around those Barowari Puja’s majestic puja pandals, themes, idols. But what interests me are the Bonedi Barir Durga Pujas. Kolkata is a city of heritage, tradition and history that dates backs to hundreds of year. And Durga Puja being an integral part of it have its equal share in the city’s narrative.
Durga Puja is the only time of the year when you can get entry to these beautiful mansions that are hundreds of years old. I personally visited the Bonedi Baris last year with my husband and friends. So why not share all my experiences and interesting details with you all.
Durga Puja and the Bonedis.
These Bonedi barir Durga Puja in Kolkata as we say it in Bengali were performed by the feudal lords or the rich Zamindars from later 16th to 17th century. As such these were also called as Jomidar Barir Pujo. During the Colonial period Durga Puja was a way of showing power and wealth which was only affordable by these Bonedi families.
People from nearby villages visited that palatial mansion to enjoy and offer their prayers to Maa Durga and take part in the festivities that took over a span of five days. With the emergence of the Barowari Durga Puja the common people started visiting them as they were more welcoming. But the Bonedi Barir Durga Puja in Kolkata is an integral part of the city’s legacy.
The grand puja pandal, themes, bright lights and decorations of the Sarbojonin or Barowari Durga Puja caught people’s fancy to a great extent. But the heritage associated with the Bonedi Barir Durga Puja in Kolkata retains its traditional value till date.
Preparing the Pratima of Maa Durga
Most of the Idols of these Bonedi Barir Durga Puja are made inside the premises of the mansion or even in the Thakur Dalan, the area where the Idol is established and the Puja is performed. The best craftsman and artists were invited to create the Pratima of Maa Durga. This tradition is maintained even today as the families invite the artists and dhaakis from the same families with whom the first Puja was started hundreds of years ago.
The embellishment of Maa Durga Pratima with Daker Saaj or Solar Saaj was started by these bonedis or zamindars. This Shola is infact a milky-white plant extract derieved from the pith of a plant called as Shoal. And the Daker Saaj was given using silver foil also called as rangta and also by using silver sequins. Since such extravagant decorative items were not available in India at that period.
These used to be imported from abroad. They came in mail which is called as Daak in Bengali. Thus ornamenting Maa Durga with such embellishments were called as Daker Saaj. Such kind of decorations were only afforded by those privileged families of early Bengal.
Sovabazar Rajbari introduced this way of decorating the idols or protimas of Maa Durga and her children Ganesha, Karthik, Lakshmi and Saraswati using the daker saaj.
Bonedi Barir Durga Puja in Kolkata, a close-knot family affair
All the various activities related to the five days worship of Maa Durga are prepared by the ladies of the house. It is also a great occasion for a family get-together. In some families, members fly from abroad just to come together to attend their Barir puja and meet their loved ones.
Most of these Pujas are more than 200 or 300 plus years old. These pujas are handed over generations from one son to another and to retain the family’s pride and tradition they are performed with great dedication by the present generation.
A visit to these Bonedi Barirs will take you down through the memory lane of the bygone eras of Kolkata during the colonial rule and give you a glimpse of their opulent lifestyles.
Guided Tours to experience these Bonedi Barir Pujo
Nowadays in Kolkata, many guided tours are organized so that visitors can have a glimpse behind those huge gates and experience the Bonedi Barir Durga Puja in Kolkata. For me too it was the first time and I had my dear friend Amrita and her husband who accompanied us the whole day as we visited some of the most affluent Bonedi Baris of Kolkata.
I made a list of the most popular Bonedi Baris and the subsequent addresses. While on-road we took the help of GPS to track each one. Most of these houses are located in North Kolkata. The nearest metro station is Sovabazar Sutanuti and Shyambazar. Also, most of the houses are at a walk-able distance from the metro stations.
This is basically a compilation post, a Photo Blog of the Baris or mansions I visited with my friends. I have no idea how the scenario would be this time. I am sure outsiders won’t be allowed to attend these pujas. But in-case you get a chance to visit make sure you abide by all the safety protocols for prevention of Covid-19.
Most families have already announced about the protocols they are about to maintain this year. Some have even announced that this time outsiders won’t be allowed to enter the premises of the house.
While taking photographs be polite enough to seek the permission of the family members or those in-charge. Also make sure you are allowed inside the premises and just remember you are not a guest just a visitor. The Bonedi Barir Durga Puja are basically personal and quite an intimate affair. Also I would suggest you to dress in the traditional attire to maintain the decorum.
I am writing the post in a similar manner as we visited the Bonedi Baris one after another as it will help you to track which ones are in the same vicinity. All the photos shared in this post are clicked on my previous year Bonedi Barir Puja Prikrama, unless mentioned. Some photographs are shared by my friends who are from Kolkata.
Also Read – DURGA PUJA IN KOLKATA- FAMOUS PUJA PANDAL, 2019
BONEDI BARIR PUJA PARIKRAMA, KOLKATA, INDIA
1. SOVABAZAR RAJBARI
Address: 33 and 36 Raja Nabakrishna Street, Sovabazar North Kolkata- 700005
There are two Durga Pujas that are performed in the two mansions situated just opposite to each other. The founder of Sovabazar Rajbari was Raja Nabakrishna Deb and the Puja was also introduced by him in the year 1757. Not just that they were the pioneers in celebrating Durga Puja in Calcutta (Current Kolkata).
It is often rumoured that Goddess Durga visits this Rajbari to listen to the music performed in the Naach Ghar ( That are may be performed by the Baijis or performers who used to sing and dance in the courts of rich Zamindars, it was quite prevalent in those days of Colonial India).
At first, the palace situated at 33 Raja Nabakrishna street was constructed and later given to his adopted son Gopimohan. The Boro Rajbari situated at 36 Raja Nabakrishna Street was built and later handed over to Raja Nabakrishna’s biological son Rajkrishna.
This mansion has it’s own Thakur dalan and Puja is performed with equal pomp and glory. The current family members haven’t made a slightest change to the customs and ritual followed in performing the Puja. Notable personalities like Swami Vivekananda, Ramkrishna Paramhansadev, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore also visited Sovabazar Rajbari during Durga Puja. Personalities like Warren Hastings, Lord Clive too added to that list.
The immersion or Visarjan ceremony also takes places in a certain traditional way that had been followed by the family for many years. They carry the idol of Maa Durga and all the other deities placed on two parallel boats. The boats slowly move aside letting the idol get immerse in the river water. Sovabazar Rajbari also has the tradition of the ‘Nilkontho Ritual” according to which birds are set free on the day of Devi immersion as a message to Lord Shiva that Maa Durga has started her homeward journey.
People from all over the visit the Ganga Ghat to bid farewell to Maa Durga on Dashami.Experiencing Durga Puja at Sovabazar Rajbari is just like visiting a history that is hundreds of years old.
2. LATU -BABU CHATU-BABU BARIR DURGA PUJA
Address: Ram Dulal Nibas, 67 E Beadon Street North Kolkata (Nearest Metro Station is Girish Park)
This Durga Puja dates back to 1770 and was performed by Ram Dulal Dey. After his death, the puja was handed over to his sons Ashutosh Dey and Pramatha Nath. They are popularly known as Chatu Babu and Latu Babu.
Though we couldn’t have a glimpse of the Thakur dalan and the Pratima as Ashtami puja had already started and they had kept the collapsible shut. But one of the members from inside was kind enough to have a glimpse of Devi Durga Pratima from outside. The red coloured palatial mansion is situated right on the main road and is at a walk-able distance from Sovabazar Rajbari.
3. NARASINGHA DAW BARIR DURGA PUJA
Address: 20 Vivekananda Road, Kolkata – 700006
More popularly called as Daw Bari Bandookwala’r Pujo as they are the famous Gun Makers and Traders of West Bengal. The Daws had been celebrating this Durga Puja started by Sri Narasingha Chandra Daw since 1859.
The Thakur Dalan is one of a kind with beautiful architectural designs in green, red and white. The mansion is situated right near the Vivekananda flyover and very easy to track in GPS. You need to search by Daw Bari Bandookwala in GPS. There was a huge crowd as all the family members had gathered near the Thakur Dalan for Ashtami Puja Anjali.
It was quite crowded when we had reached as devotees and family members had gathered near the Thakur dalan for Ashtami puspanjali. But they were kind enough to made way for us so that we could have a glimpse of Maa Durga and offer our prayers.
4. JORASANKO SHIBKRISHNA DAW BARIR DURGA PUJA
Address: 12 A Shibkrishna Daw Lane, North Kolkata – 700007
Just as you come out of the main door of the Daw Bari Bandookwala start walking towards your left and there is a small lane where is situated the Bonedi Bari of Shibkrishna Daw. We wouldn’t know about this place until a lady who was probably going to the same house informed about the Daw Barir Puja. Glad people are so helpful. The mansion is one of the most beautiful among all the ones that we visited earlier. My friends later told me this mansion is used as a shooting venue for many films and tele-dramas.
The series of balconies on both sides right above the Thakur Dalan looks like a scene from a Shakespearean Drama. The house belonged to Gokul Chandra Daw who later adopted Shibkrishna Daw who was his relative’s son and started celebrating Durga Puja from 1840 on that occasion.
5. DUTTA BARIR BONEDI PUJA (Also known as GHOSH BARI )
Address: 159 Balaram Dey Street, Ram Bagan Kolkata- 700006 (Nearest metro station is Girish Park)
This Pujo was started by Shri Shyamal Dhon Dutta who was from Hath Khola. He started celebrating this puja in the year 1882 and currently, the 6th generation of the descendants are continuing with the family tradition. We went near the Thakur Dalan and watched as the priests were preparing garlands for Maa Durga.
The Pratima of this family is unique, as it is divided into three parts called Katahamo. On the day of Ulto Rath, the Katahamo puja is performed. Entire dress of the Pratima is made of clay and the weapons of Pratima are made of silver. Kumari Pujo is performed on three days – Ashtami, Nabami and Dashami.
As I was searching for more details about the Dutta family I found there official Durga Puja blog post. You can read it for more detailed information about the rituals – CLICK HERE
6. KHELAT GHOSH’S BARIR DURGA PUJA
Address: 47 Pathuriaghata Street, North Kolkata (Nearest Metro Station is Girish park)
The Babu Khelat Ghosh’s residence is situated in a neighbourhood which has the residences of some of the most affluent families of Bengal during the 18th and 19th century. The Durga Puja was introduced by Babu Khelat Chandra Ghosh in 1846. Presently there is a trust who looks after the house and the celebration of Durga Puja.
An 85 feet Marble corridor, beautifully crafted wooden doors, a renovated white building, this mansion of Khelat Ghosh is one of a kind. The Thakur Dalan is stunning and comes alive during Durga Puja. Certain artefacts were at display at the area near the Durga Pratima and we were lucky enough to have a look around. The Puja celebrated here is around 170 years old.
The house was built by Babu Khelat Ghosh during the 19th century. Later he moved away from the original house. Babu Khelat Ghosh was the grandson of Ramlochan Ghosh, a clerk working under Warren Hastings. You can vividly observe the colonial influence in the beautification of the mansion with statues that resembles the ones you can see in western countries.
7. NILMONI SEN BARIR DURGA PUJA
Address: 117/1 Baithakhana Road, Kolkata – 700009
Nilmoni Sen, a gold merchant from 19th century Calcutta celebrated Durga Puja in this house since 1913. The Thakur Dalan looks stunning with the arched pattern. Nilmoni Sen’s bari is famous for worshipping the Abhaya Durga.
I couldn’t, visit the puja but I asked one of my friends to share a picture for all my readers.
8. CHORBAGAN SIL BARI
Address: 42, Muktaram Babu Street, North Kolkata 700007 (Nearest Metro station is Girish Park)
The Sil family completed 150 years of their Durga Puja celebration in the year 2005. The Thakur dalan next to the marble palace is two storyed and dates back to the 19th century. The main Durga Puja began after the initiate taken by Khetramoni Debi, wife of Babu Ram Chandra Sil, a successful business. Kumari Puja is performed on the ninth day that is Nabami.
9. THONTHONIA DUTTA BARIR DURGA PUJA
Address: 78, Neemtala Ghat Street, Kolkata 700005
Started in 1807 by Shri Dwarkanath Dutta this 200 years old Durga Puja is quite significant as the Shib-Durga Idol where Maa Durga sits on the lap of Shiva. This Durga Puja is not meant to be missed among all the other Bonedi barir Durga Puja in Kolkata.
10. BANERJEE-RAY BARIR BONEDI DURGA PUJA
Address: 53, Pathuriaghata Street, Kolkata 700006
This house falls on way to Khelat Ghosh’s Bonedi Bari as its in the same neighbourhood.This 300 years old Durga Puja is one of the oldest in the area. The house itself is 300 years old and named Hara -Kutir after Shri Haraprasad Banerjee, a saint and a scholar.
There was not much crowd when we entered this Bari and we felt a bit out of place as they pulled the curtains of the Thakur Dalan while we were there. But still we offered our prayers to Maa Durga and took pleasure to the tune of the Dhaak.
11. RANI RASHMONI BARIR DURGA PUJA
Address: SN Banerjee Road, Esplanade, Janbazar, Taltala, Kolkata, 700013 ( Nearest Metro Station is Esplanade)
I have written a detailed blog post on the house of Rani Rashmoni situated in Janbazar area of Kolkata. We couldn’t visit the mansion during Durga Puja as it is difficult to cover all the areas in a day. We visited after Dashami and even though the Thakur Dalan was empty yet it gave us an idea of their opulent lifestyle.
The Durga puja is later handed over by Rani Rashmoni to her three daughters. Later three Durga Puja is performed in their respective premises. The puja performed at the residence of daughter Padmamani at 13 Rani Rashmoni Road is the one started by Rani herself. The Durga Pratima here is of great significance as the skin colour is like Molten Gold (Tapta Kanchan).
12. PATHURIAGHATA MALLICK BARIR DURGA PUJA
Address: 32, Darpanarayan Tagore Street, Kolkata 700006 (Nearest Metro Girish Park)
The beautiful Mallick Bari has one of the most gorgeous Thakur Dalan, with a front area covered with iron arches. The Durga Puja is 235 years old and was introduced by Baishnab Das Mallick in 1785 who was a gold merchant.
The Durga Pratima is unique as you can see Maa Durga seated on the lap of Shiva as Hara-Gouri. I couldn’t visit the Pujo but my friend Amrita shared with me a photograph which she clicked on her visit.
This blog post is still in the incomplete version. I shall keep on adding to the list of Bonedi Barir Durga Puja in Kolkata as I get a chance to visit more in the coming years. The above mentioned are some of the most prominent ones and you won’t find any difficulty in finding the houses.
13. HATHKHOLA DUTTA BARI
Address: Ram Seth Road, 78-Nimtala Ghat Street of Kolkata North 700005
The Duttas of Hathkhola is one of the most aristocratic families of Bengal. The Duttas are the descendants of Jagat Ram Dutta who worked as a “Deewan” under the East India Company of Patna. Durga Puja in this family was introduced by Jagat Ram Dutta himself from the year 1794.
He started the Puja after leaving his house and shifting at 78 Neemtala and from there the Durga Puja was initiated in the Thakur Dalan situated in Neemtala Ghat Street. The Duttas don’t encourage Animal Sacrifice and the Devi Pratima is adorned with Daker Saaj (Refer above for Daker Saaj).
POPULAR BONEDI BARIR PUJO IN THE INTERIORS OF WEST BENGAL
Besides some popular Bonedi Barir Durga Puja in Kolkata, there are certain remarkable Bonedi Baris who are famous for their family’s Durga Puja every year. These Pujas are visited by celebrities of the Cinema and Television industry.
I wasn’t able to attend those family’s Durga Puja but I did get a chance to visit those palatial mansions and get a glimpse of its grand Thakur Dalan which is a spectacle in itself. Below are those famous Rajbaris or Bonedi Baris in the nearby location of Kolkata.
14.SURUL SARKAR RAJBARIS BONEDI PUJO
Address: Surul, near Santiniketan Birbhum district West Bengal
A small town in Bolpur Shantiniketan, Surul is famous for its rajbaris and natural beauty. Last year I visited Bolpur with my friends and we paid an early morning visit to Surul. It is easily accessible from there and you can hire an e-rickshaw. He will show you around all the beautiful temples and mansions situated at Surul Of all the Surul Rajbari is very famous.
It is one of the most well-maintained building and also one that houses the largest Bonedi Barir Durga Puja. The mansion is decked up for Puja and there are a lot of stalls set outside selling decorative pieces and various handicrafts just like a mini fair. This year there won’t be any fair and also there will be restrictions upon visiting the mansion.
The Durga Puja is almost 286 plus years old and celebrated with equal pomp and grandeur till today. The creation of Maa Durga’s Idol starts right from the day of Ratha Jatra in the Natmandir itself. Maa Durga is adorned in ek shala Daker Shaaj (Please refer above for Daker Shaaj).
The Pratima is adorned with traditional jewellery made of original gold and till today the weapons placed on Her hand are 286 years old (as I read in a recent newspaper cutting uploaded by the Facebook page of Surul Sarkar Rajbari). The present house is divided into parts Boro Bari and Choto Bari and each family organizes and celebrates their own Durga Puja.
15. SERAMPORE GOSWAMI RAJBARI,
Address: Chatra, Serampore, West Bengal – 712201 (Easiest way to reach is by taking a train from Howrah station)
It was last year on our way back from Itachuna Rajbari that I visited Goswami Rajbari at Serampore. The building was under renovation yet we got a chance to have a look around. The Thakur Dalan specifically caught out attention. Durga Puja at Goswami Rajbari was started back in 1687 by Harinarayan Goswami.
This year it’s going to be the 333rd year of Durga Puja Celebration. The maintenance and Durga Puja and other matters are looked by a Board of Trustee. You can read in details about Goswami Rajbari in my blog post here- Goswami Rajbari, Serampore West Bengal
Some points to remember:
- It’s better if you are accompanied by a local, it will save you much time.
- Keep your phone charged as you will need to use your GPS in tracking the locations.
- Even the cab drivers are not well acquainted with some of the neighbourhoods.
- Even though we love to get dressed up during Durga Puja, I would suggest you wear comfortable clothes and flat sandals. You will need to walk a lot.
- Carry an umbrella it can get hot and scorchy during the day.
- Start at an early hour. It’s better if you can visit the houses on Panchami Puja to avoid the crowd gathered on Ashtami and Nabami.
- Be polite and dress traditionally as you will attend a family affair.
- This is the only time of the year when you can visit and have a glance inside the luxurious houses of the Bonedis or aristocrats of Bengal.
- Some families may be hesitant on your arrival or may ask you not to take pictures, please don’t argue and rather take leave politely.
Reference taken from the following online resources:
Also, a big thanks to my friends Gargi Ghosh, Amrita Sengupta, Smita Dutta and Arindam Das for contributing their pictures for my blog post.
You can read more Travel related Blog posts from Kolkata
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