Category: Pujo

The World is calling you… by Titas Mazumdar

Medicine check, Power bank check, Charger check, Toiletries Check. Travel pouch check-   ..Check Check….All set—– do you know what was that—- I am preparing for my next trip and that was my checklist….

Kailash range from Kalpa village

Today I thought of touching upon another passion of mine apart from Gardening and that is travelling. I can sometimes call it my obsession too. Wait- My passion list doesn’t end here though. I have a long list  to go….it will come up in all my forth coming writings. By the way writing is also one among my many hobbies which I love to nurture. Today let me talk about travelling and why I am so attracted to this calling.

Luckily me and my better half both of us share this passion….This is the best way we bond.

How many of you love travelling?  I guess all ….right? What are the benefits of travelling?

Travel ready

I truly believe that travelling is the best investment you can do on yourself. Like you go for higher education, professional trainings, certification, and personality development. These are all your investment on yourself right? Travelling to me stands number 1 investment. This investment has huge returns, the returns which are countless, the asset that no one can steal, the most valuable experience which you can pass on to your kids.

Off we go

Travel has given me the experience of life, travelling has broadened the world to me .Travelling has taught me crisis management, risk management, problem management, finance management, tolerance and acceptance. People who love travelling will definitely agree with me. Till date I have travelled 11 countries including India of course. And in India covered 15 states so far… My goal in life to complete entire India and at least half of the world… I know it’s too high a goal to achieve, specially at this time of the year with pandemic situation all around, but who can stop me from dreaming? This will also pass, and slowly the good time will come back. Let me keep all my hopes high.

Travelling to me is not travelling to my home-town or annual visit to friends or families. Travelling to me is not staying in a resort and floating in the swimming pool with a can of bear. Travelling is every time going to a new place. Exploring the world, knowing the unknowns. Blending with culture, knowing the people there, chatting with them, making them friends, eat the local food, stay among them, be a part of them. I prefer homestays over hotels as it always gives a local touch, a personal care.

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Every time I travel to a new place, I learn something new which I might have missed reading in books, seeing in movies. In 2017 I travelled to Nepal, we were walking down the narrow lanes of the heritage city Bhaktapur of Nepal. Just before sunset all the ladies came out to offer prayer as it was some religious day, I was not aware and to my surprises I saw on the plate they were offering to God they had boiled eggs and deep fried fishes. Yes, in their culture they do serve fish and egg to God. Isn’t it interesting?

Have you guys visited the cleanest village of Asia? It’s in our country Meghalaya. Mawlynnong – I happened to stay 2 days there is a home stay. It’s a magical paradise – a 100% literate village with full women empowerment. They just have 2 very small grocery stores and 2 restaurants for tourists. All the houses produce their own vegetables or get it from nearby jungles. One school in the village for all. No morning rush hour, no one is in hurry to reach anywhere or to achieve anything. Every single soul is contended and happy.

In one of our recent trips to Goa we came across an Italian middle aged lady who was staying in Goa for last couple of months and she has been driving in her own car all by herself all across Europe, staying in different countries, on her way to India. She entered India through Kazaksthan – Nepal route. We were amazed and thrilled to hear all her adventurous travel stories. When you are travelling you meet such crazy solo travelers who can be friend in just couple of seconds.

In trips you meet with bad experiences too and you have good amount of lesson learning from those bitter experiences. In 2010 we were in vacation in Bahamas, bright sunny morning, we headed for water scootie ride under the water to see the coral reef and fishes followed by some scuba diving… we were about to get the passes when my husband realized he has been  pick pocketed. He had driving license, different domestic debit and credit cards, metro card, loyalty cards which were of no use in a foreign land. Those cards were in his wallet and it never occurred to us to keep it at home while travelling overseas. We just wasted half a day calling back home to cancel all the cards. So, from next time onwards whenever we travel international we make sure just we have the right thing and not one extra, useless item in our wallets.

Another bad experience we had in Prague in 2009 where we were caught by the local cop in the bus. As usual we chose to stay in not so touristy place as these places come with amazing local touch, but the problem is when you don’t know the local language. The bus tickets are sold in tobacco shops. We asked for a round ticket to and fro Prague’s castle, the lady gave us the ticket but didn’t mention that the ticket is valid only till 2 hrs. So basically, you can purchase tickets based on hours, which we were completely unaware of until the cop got into the bus and directly came to us while were returning from the castle after almost 5 hrs. We were the only brown skins in the bus and it seems that it was kind of preplanned and the cop directly came to us and asked for the ticket and told it was a random check. We showed the ticket and he told the ticket is not valid, please get down from the bus and pay the fine. We realized they targeted tourists as tourist don’t know the local language and it is a very common mistake they make. By default, tickets have 2 hours validity, if you need more you have to ask for it… who knew this law of the land? From then onwards we became double /triple careful and did more research before taking any public transport in a foreign land.

On our way to Valley of Flowers

I have hundred such experiences to share related to my trips and travels… the bottom line is good or bad any travel to a new place always teaches you some life lesson which no book can teach you. It gives you knowledge of history, geography, social science, geology that no school alone teaches. No matter how many miles you travel, you travel to a place near to home or far, village or a city, outside the country or within the country, mountains or desert, it will always enlighten your little world and brighten your future, add to your experience , make you much more wealthier and happier from within. Travelling is a secret for happiness, key to valuing your own life, a secret to de stress yourself. So just pack your bags and head towards the unknown; world is calling you – there is so much to explore….But yes wait for the good time to come back and don’t forget your mask.

Mahalaya

By Heema Roy Choudhury

Mahalaya is widely celebrated as the day when Goddess Durga begins her descend to earth, to grace us with her presence for those five much awaited days of Durga Pujo. As a girl I would wake up in the wee hours of Mahalaya morning to listen to the recital of Birendra Krishna Bhadra. The whole family would gather around the radio to listen to him, invoking the Goddess in his sonorous voice.

There was so much excitement around Mahalaya. I would spend an almost sleepless night lest I missed the recitals, what if mom forgot to wake me up. The medium was audio, but the lyrics, the voice, the songs, and our imagination would bring Devi Durga alive. I could almost visualize her stepping out from her heavenly abode to begin her journey to earth.

Mahalaya also marks the end of Pitri Paksha and the beginning of Devi Paksha (though this year it will be delayed by about a month due to the Adhik Maas (leap month in the Hindu calendar). Like the soft glow of Devi, the golden sun soothes our eyes, the clear blue sky, the cottony white clouds, the cool breeze usher pleasant autumn. The sweet fragrance of Shiuli Phool (a kind of jasmine) and the sound of dhak would add to the magic once, reminding us that Durga Pujo’s round the corner. We could feel the morning dew, the harsh summer giving in to cooler climes. Somehow, though I still feel the season changing, the old excitement is gone. Maybe it’s me growing up, maybe it’s staying away from home so long, sometimes I forget to miss Shiuli flower that would be strewn under the tree in our courtyard. As girl I would string these sweet-smelling flowers into garlands or bracelets. My ears still strain for the sound of dhak, brings back memories, though my heart doesn’t flutter like it used to once.

Mahalaya would also mean rushing to the market to buy new clothes and shoes, badgering mom to finish stitching our dresses soon, planning our outfits for each day, waiting eagerly for four days of pandal hopping and festivities. As a child Durga Pujo also meant holidays and no studies. Now, it’s work as usual, though I make it a point to wear sari and go to the nearby Pujo pandal in the evening. The pandals in Gurgaon do a good job of presenting Devi Durga in all her glory, with dhak and dhunochi dance, yet something’s missing. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe the times have changed!

Durga Pujo: soaking up in the Divine Glow

IMG-20181019-WA0036.jpgThe golden sunlight, the clear blue sky, the white cottony clouds
The gentle cool breeze, the sweet smell of shiuli, or just the memory of that smell whiffing through the air
Ears straining for the sound of dhak, the excitement of dhunochi dance
Absurd heart yearning to soak up in the spirit of Durga Pujo and the festivities
To while away the mornings, the afternoons and the evenings idly busy in the pandal
To feel purposeful, yet do nothing
To feel the nearness of the soft glow of the divine power
The positivity, the optimism and the cheer

Dressing up in best saris, suits and jewelry
Showing ourselves off in the radiance of the divine glow
Sampling the choicest delicacy
Hopping from pandal to pandal as if nothing else mattered on those four days of Matri Pujo

The carefree Pujo days while we were growing up
Memories come flooding back with the gentle breeze, the soft dew, the all forgiving smile and the golden aura of Devi
“Devi arrived on ghatak (horse) this year, that’s bad omen,” exclaims my mother
The all-powerful Mother Goddess can only be the harbinger of hope, of all the good that awaits us, protests my absurd heart!!

Goddess Durga ponders upon her earthly sojourn: the changing flavours of Sharod Utsav

Goddess Durga is getting ready for her annual earthly visit to grace the Sharod Utsav or Durga Puja that is celebrated with much gusto in West Bengal, Tripura, Orissa, in C R Park in Delhi, and in smaller scales across India. According to mythology, Durga was first worshipped in spring (Basanti Puja) by King Surath.  Advised by Sage Medha, the exiled King Surath invoked the Goddess to win back his lost kingdom. Though Basanti Puja is still celebrated, Sharod Utsav has assumed far grander proportions. Goddess Durga was first worshipped in autumn by Lord Rama who sought her blessings to defeat the demon king Ravana. Lord Rama’s ‘Akalbodhan’ (untimely awakening of the Goddess) is what has captured the popular imagination. Durga Puja or Sharod Utsav is the biggest festival in Bengal and the East.

This year, however, the Goddess seems to have lost her usual enthusiasm for her annual earthly sojourn.  As she packs her bags with her best saris and jewellery listlessly her husband Lord Shiva enters the bedroom.

Shiva: Is everything all right with you Devi? You are usually so excited about these annual trips?

Durga: My Lord I do enjoy my earthly sojourns, but of late I have started feeling its more pomp and show and the real spirit is missing. So much money is spent on huge pandals built on innovative themes, elaborate light work, decorations and loud music. But not enough attention is paid to the pujo, following the rituals and the traditions. I miss those simple ek chalar pujo (the idols of Durga and her children in one simple frame). People would make idols with clay and natural colours and adorn with shola (milky-white sponge-wood). I yearn for the beats of dhak and kashor, the deep blow of the conch. This loud music played on the music system is deafening. I can’t even smell shiuli phul (night flowering jasmine) in most places.

Earlier, before my arrival, the ground used to be strewn with shiuli phul. I hardly see those plants anymore. My pujo was mostly performed in households and women of those houses would get up very early to make all the preparations and to cook an elaborate bhog. There would be lotus, shiuli and so many other flowers. Dhakis would compete with each other, everyone would participate in dhunochi dance in those simply decorated pandals. The whole community would get together for my pujo.

Now women have no time to get into all these. They just get dressed and come to the pandal. Everything else is outsourced. People are more interested in eating rolls, chops and biriyani than bhog.

Durga sighed and sat on her bed.

Photo courtesy Sanjay Kumar Roy

Shiva: My dear I agree a lot has changed. Not many people have the time to perform elaborate pujo or even offer Anjali to you. They are too busy with their day-to-day lives, their jobs. Life is more complicated now than it used to be a few decades ago. But no matter what, your pujo infuses a spirit of festivity and celebration. Regardless of how busy these people are, they take time to visit you in new clothes, forget their worries and look forward to the future with optimism and hope.

Photo courtesy Sanjay Kumar Roy

And if you look closely you will observe a lot of positive changes, especially in women. Most women today are well educated, have a good job. They are conquering outer space, running companies, performing lifesaving surgeries. They are the very manifestation of your shakti. They may not have time to perform all the rituals of the pujo but they worship you with their spirits. Be it a pandal in Kolkata or Agartala or Gurgaon, women still gather to dance to the tune of dhak or perform dhunochi dance in a traditional manner.

The potters of Kumartuli and light artisans of Chandannagar wait eagerly for your arrival every year. Their bread and butter depend on you. With so much buying, selling and festivities you infuse positivity, you symbolize hope.

Durga: What you are saying is true. Not that I mind all the glitz and the glamour that is associated with pujo now. But with so much technology I sometimes miss the real connection. Even after coming to my Pandal people are glued to their phones. They are more interested in taking their selfies and videos with me and posting them on Facebook or Instagram. They are so governed by social media likes.

Look at our children, these trips to the earth have got them addicted to social media. Ganesha is forever showing off his wisdom on Twitter and Karthik can’t stop posting pictures on Instagram. I am told he’s trying Tik Tok now, our Karthik wants to be a Tik Tok celebrity. Lakshmi is hooked to online shopping and Saraswathi is doling out knowledge capsules on Facebook. They are preoccupied with their phones and ipads; they don’t even have time to talk to me anymore.

Photo courtesy Sanjay Kumar Roy

Shiva: My dear social media is a form of communication now; it is a good way to connect with the youth. But I do agree this generations’ focus on social media is excessive and they need to strike a balance. Maybe our children, through their posts, is trying to help them achieve this balance.

Durga: Also look at all the artificial, colours, chemicals and POPs used for my idols. Look at the pollution they are causing. My heart bleeds to see what’s happening to Ganga, Yamuna and the other water bodies. They are choking, they are dying.

Shiva: On that, I entirely agree with you. But I am also hopeful they will change their ways before it’s too late. They have already started talking about environment-friendly idols and natural colours.

Durga: They better change soon, or they will witness your thandav, maha pralay.

Shiva: Go give them the strength and the wisdom to change for the better.

Durga: Yes dear, you are right. Mankind has indeed achieved a lot. Instead of focusing on their mistakes might as well inspire them to build a better future.

Durga gets up and starts packing eagerly. Mahadev smiles, bows at her and leaves the room.

Interesting titbits

How Ganesha outwits Karthik – shared by Puja

Narada delivers a mango from Lord Brahma to Lord Shiva for his son – it’s no ordinary mango, one who eats it would gain knowledge and wisdom. Lord Shiva is faced with a dilemma as both his sons want the mango. To solve this Shiva, after consulting Durga, decides to hold a competition between his two sons – whoever finishes circling the world thrice first will win the mango. Go getting Karthik immediately sets out on his peacock. Plump Ganesha on his rat stands no chance.

Witty Ganesha requests his parents to sit together and circles them thrice with folded hands and then demands the mango. “My parents’ are my world,” says Ganesha. Touched, Shiva hands him the mango.

Tridevi

Photo courtesy Sanjay Kumar Roy

Durga Puja marks the victory of goddess Durga in her battle against the shape-shifting buffalo asura, Mahishasura, epitomising the victory of good over evil. As per Bengali traditions, Durga visits her natal home with her children – daughters Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth, prosperity) and Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge and music) and Ganesha (the god of wisdom and good beginnings), and Kartikeya (the god of war).

In Shaktism, Durga or Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati are the manifestations of goddess Yogmaya also known as Adi Parashakti. Durga represents the transformational power of divinity, the power that dissolves the multiplicity of the Hindu gods into their unity. She is the direct incarnation of Adi Parashakti.

According to Vishnu Purana, Lakshmi is the daughter of Sage Bhrigu and Khyaati and consort of Lord Vishnu. In Rigveda, Saraswati a river also personifies the Goddess, she is the consort of Lord Bhrahma. Goddess Durga is Goddess Laxmi and Goddess Saraswati in her mild form – the Tridevi.

Childhood memories of invoking Goddess Saraswati

ma saraswati

Of all the Pujos that used to be celebrated at home during my childhood, Saraswati Pujo was perhaps the most awaited. Children of the family would collect donations from elders’ a week or so before the Pujo. We would then sit with our grandmother and mother to make a list of things required for the Pujo, right from rice, dal, fruits, gur, muri, chire (chirva), flowers, etc. Then started the shopping, every day after school, supervised and accompanied by elders of course. Usually our youngest uncle would guide the gang of cousins to the right shops. Advantages of growing up in a joint family, company of cousins made every occasion so much more fun, and indulgent uncles & aunts forever shielded us and gave in to our demands!

idols of SaraswatiOn the evening before the Saraswati Pujo, we would make a small pandal in our courtyard with my mother’s and aunts’ yellow saris and strings of yellow marigold flowers. Saraswati Pujo, also known as Basanti Pujo, falls on the day of Basant Panchami that marks the arrival of spring. Bright yellow happens to be the Goddess’s favourite colour. Going to the market to pick up an idol used to be another important task of that evening. I still remember walking through the lanes with so many magnificent idols of Vac Devi displayed by the potters, in different sizes and styles. The clam expression and the benevolent smile was however the hallmark of every idol of the fair goddess. After much deliberation, we would pick up an idol that would appear to smile benignly upon us. It was perhaps our childish fantasy, or perhaps a sense of connect with the divine that we felt then!

kashorOn reaching home with the Goddess we would proudly announce our arrival. Goddess Saraswati would be ushered in with the blow konch and the beat of kashor and placed respectfully on the vedi made for her worship. As the ladies of the house would busy themselves in the kitchen preparing naru (nariyel laddu), moa (laddu made of murmura and jaggery), khoier upra (sweetened parched paddy) etc., we would gather around the pandal finishing the decorations and placing our books & pens at the Goddess’s feet. Saraswati Pujo day was one of those rare days when we were forbidden to open our books (that made the day very special for us). On that day, we would invoke the Goddess of knowledge to grant us eternal wisdom.

On the morning of the Pujo, we girls would line up before pandal in yellow saris (borrowed from mom and aunts, tied over tops & t shirts). An elaborate bhog would be laid out before the Goddess – kichdi, labra (mixed vegetable), fried vegetables, puri, sabzi, kheer, moa, naru, fruits, sweets etc. Ber, khoi (parched paddy) & curd, a few items without which the Pujo is considered incomplete, would be placed before the Goddess. In fact, as kids we were not allowed to eat ber before Saraswati Pujo. We were told that we would do miserably in our exams if we didn’t listen.  A thakur moshai or Panditji would come to perform the Pujo. On Pujo days Panditjis’ were in high demand and needed to be pre-booked.

After the Pujo we would all sit down to have the prasad, starting with khoi & curd and ending with tomato chutney, kheer and other sweets, what a feast that was. Somehow the same items cooked on regular days never tasted as delicious.

Having been away from home for a while, the fervent excitement that I once felt during Saraswati Pujo is just a fond memory. Since all the children are away, my mother now does a very small Pujo at home. An elaborate Saraswati Pujo is performed at my sister’s place for the sake of my nephew. A single child, with cousins in other cities, my nephew will never know the fun and the excitement of participating whole-heartedly in Saraswati Pujo with siblings and gang of cousins!