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Old is gold: Delhi’s Vintage Durga Pujas stay rooted in tradition

Timarpur organisers say that while Kashmere Gate was registered in 1911, the Timarpur Puja, on paper, dates back to 1914.

delhi Updated: Sep 24, 2017 07:54 IST
Ritam Halder
Ritam Halder
Hindustan Times
delhi,delhi ouja,durga puja
Then president Rajendra Prasad offers prayers at the New Delhi Kali Bari in September 1960 .

Be it at Kashmere Gate, which is arguably the oldest in the city and is organised by Delhi Durga Puja Charitable and Cultural Samiti since 1910 or the New Delhi Kali Bari started in 1935 by the babus, who shifted from Kolkata to Delhi — the vintage Pujas of the Capital stress on traditions with minor necessary tweaks with time.

For Kashmere Gate Durga Puja organisers, following the tradition means sticking to the ritual of the idol being taken on a bullock cart for visarjan (immersion) every year.

“The first puja in Delhi was organised in 1910 at Roshanpura Kali Mandir near Nai Sarak. With the passage of time, the Puja Samiti grew larger after getting space at a dharamshala located near Fatehpuri Mosque. In 1948, the Puja was shifted to Delhi Polytechnic in Kashmere Gate. From 1957-1967, the puja was held at the Women’s Polytechnic. In 1968, it was shifted to Bengali Senior Secondary School on Shamnath Marg, Civil Lines,” said Samarendra Bose, former president of Delhi Durga Puja Charitable and Cultural Samiti, which organises the puja.

However, some say that the first Durga Puja in Delhi was celebrated in Timarpur in 1909.

Timarpur organisers say that while Kashmere Gate was registered in 1911, the Timarpur Puja, on paper, dates to 1914.

“Some believe that Durga Puja was celebrated in Delhi for the first time more than 300 years ago. Some Bengali traders had come to Delhi in 1714 in the durbar of the then Mughal Emperor and couldn’t return. They were given permission to organise a puja here,” Sukhangshu Chatterjee, president of the Timarpur Puja committee, said.

Chatterjee lives with his family in Vikaspuri but during week long puja celebrations, he becomes a Timarpur resident.

“I have been born and brought up here and moved to Vikaspuri in 1990. However, during the Puja days I shift back. One unique ritual which happens in our Puja is instead of bullocks taking the carts towards the ghats, we do it. This has been going on since 1980s after an accident involving the bullocks. Our idol is also the last one to get immersed as we wait for people to come to Geeta Ghat and pay their respects,” he says.

Durga Puja at Khari Baoli in 1976. (HT Photo)

Another vintage Puja of the city is the one at New Delhi Kalibari. This Puja started in 1935 and is not only one of the oldest but most popular venues of the city.

“This area housed the government-servants, most of whom had come from Calcutta and other places. A puja started in rotation in Dalhousie Square, Edward Square, Baird Square and Sikandra Place. In 1935, it was shifted to the New Delhi Kali Bari and has been held here since then,” Swapan Ganguly, secretary of the New Delhi Kalibari, said.

Many Puja organisers have taken to theme-based celebration over recent years but the puja at Mandir Marg stays firm on the traditional route.

“Ours is no exhibition, it is real Puja. All the rituals are followed. Durga Puja is a lot of fun and frolic but primarily it is worshipping the Mother Goddess. Still thousands devotees come for darshan during the Puja days. People who used to live in the locality and are spread all over NCR come back here for the occasion,” Ganguly says.

One such resident, Bijoy Choudhury, moved to Chittaranjan Park in 1973. “For the Puja days, my address changes. I am back here. CR Park has many Durga Pujas, too. But this is home. And Durga Puja is Bengali homecoming,” he said.

First Published: Sep 24, 2017 07:54 IST