West Bengal’s Miriti village misses former president Pranab Mukherjee on Durga Puja
No matter where he was, he used to make it a point to come to the village during Durga Puja and hold the puja in his ancestral house, said a resident of MiritiUpdated: Oct 24, 2020, 09:37 IST
The 126-year-old Durga Puja at the ancestral home of the Mukherjees in remote Miriti village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district is being organised as usual this year too. But the puja has lost one of its biggest attractions. The priest himself. The villagers and close associates of former President Pranab Mukherjee, who passed away in August, say they feel his absence at every step.
“He used to guide us like a father figure. This time, he is not here with us anymore and we can feel it even more during the puja because he used to do everything from reciting the Chandi every day and performing the Sandi Puja. It was his puja and the priests used to assist him,” said Rabi Chattaraj, 71, a resident of Miriti.
The village is around 230 km south-west of Kolkata where the puja was started by Mukherjee’s ancestor, Jangaleswar Mukherjee, 126 years ago.
“No matter where he was, he used to make it a point to come to the village during Durga Puja and hold the puja in his ancestral house. It was a big attraction and people from far off villages used to come just to see him when he was the president,” he said.
A devout Hindu, Pranab Mukherjee never missed his priest’s role except in 2015, when his wife, Suvra, passed away just a few days before the annual festival. Although other priests performed the routine rituals, it was Mukherjee’s job to chant scriptures from the 13 chapters of Chandi.
“He had almost memorised the entire Chandi as he used to chant it every day the first thing in the morning. So, while performing the Durga Puja, he could chant it without referring to any scriptures,” said Chattaraj, who shares a very close and cordial relation with the Mukherjee family.
Friday was Saptami of Durga Puja. Following tradition and wearing patta-bastra, Mukherjee would visit a nearby river to perform the Saptami rituals. After returning, he chanted the Chandi (a set of slokas) before the idol.
“This time, the Chandi is being recited by a priest in the absence of my father. Villagers and family invitees are coming regularly to meet us. They are all remembering my father. His absence is being felt,” said Abhijit Mukherjee, son of Pranab Mukherjee and a former lawmaker.
During his stay in the village, Mukherjee would spend time with family and old friends, some of whom went to the Shib Chandra High School at Kirnahar, which is more commonly referred to as Pranab’s school.
The former president was one of the country’s most admired political leaders.
Villagers at Kirnahar had organised a Maha Mrityunjaya yajna when Mukherjee was hospitalised this summer.