When Durga Puja is round the corner, Kolkata comes to a standstill to welcome Goddess Uma. No matter how much the metropolis is surrounded by everyday hustle and bustle of students and working professionals, the vibrancy of Durga Puja celebrations fills up the entire city. While every puja pandal displays richness in its creativity and artistry, Bonedi family puja showcases its age-old traditions. And one such ‘Bonedi’ family has always been the star attraction to many across the city.
Located in South Kolkata, Bhowanipore Mallick Bari turns into a colourful canvas with pushpanjali, bhog prosad, sandhya aarati, sindur khela, music and dance, each splashing hues of liveliness, love, happiness and a sense of togetherness during Durga Puja.
All members of this joint family come under one roof to celebrate rituals of the festivity with immense pomp and laughter. “For us, performing all the rituals prior to and during puja is what we love. It bonds us together,” said Debasree Mallick, daughter-in-law of Mallick family.
While many associate Bhawanipore Mallick Bari with popular Bengali actress Koel Mallick and her father actor Ranjit Mallick, the unique aspect is the exuberance dominating this family since ages.
What Animita Mallick, daughter of the family, said that “at a time when individualism is gaining traction in India, we could uphold our traditions and values that keep us firmly bonded with each other. And they come into prominence especially during puja celebration. While men dance to the beats of dhaak on Ashtami and Nabami sandhya aarati, women enjoy sindur khela to their hearts’ content. Meanwhile, thakur baran is done every year by the eldest daughter-in-law of the family.”
As per age-old traditions, a group of artisans for idol making are associated with the family over generations. Chokshudaan - drawing of eyes of Maa Durga – on the other hand is done on Mahalaya.
History has it that one of the ancestors of this family, named Surat, first initiated Durga Puja around 600 years back at a small village of Srikhand in Burdwan. Later, they shifted to Gooptipara and finally in Kolkata’s Bhawanipore area where the family is holding celebrations for the past 98 years.
For Mallick family, celebrating Debi Durga is next to pampering their own daughter. “As she is brought to life, Durga dazzles in gold jewels that include her bangles, necklace and other jewelleries and adorned with a large-size lustrous silver necklace as well. She is even beautified with a variety of rose, marigold and lotus garlands that are timely changed twice a day from Sashti to Nabami,” said Anjana Mallick.
“And as per our ritual, as we also place a small separate idol of Goddess Laxmi just next to Durga and decorate her, she looks like a petite pretty doll wrapped in gold ornaments and a beautiful benarasi sari. Additionally, Narayan puja also forms an important part of the Durga Puja celebration,” added Debrasee.
Coming next to food, maa-er bhog is an essential aspect of Durga puja celebrations worldwide. And in Mallick Bari, the food items are unique, yet interesting. While luchi bhog is served for four days, the family maintains the tradition of savouring mete chocchori and homemade special bode on Dashami after bisarjan (immersion).
A special style of bisarjan is held every year as the family members walk to adi Ganga with the idol tightened to large bamboo poles that are carried on shoulders by a group of bearers.
And who can forget music in Mallick Bari? The bisarjan is followed by the family’s another added attraction. Famous singer Pramita Mallick’s melodious songs like DL Ray, Esho Maa Lokkhi and Dhono Dhaanne add five stars to the evening baithak at the thakur dalan post immersion.
As the Mallick family members bid adieu to Maa Durga with teary eyes yet full of hopes, they say out loud, Asche bochor abar hobe.
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