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Prelude to the Pujos

Piu Sur

Dhak. The very words vibrates with the beats of the drums associated with Durga Puja. The festival of never complete without the beats of the Dhak resounding in the air. Suggested by a friend organizing Durga Puja in his residence I went to Sealdah Station. The space in front was taken up by several Dhaki’s in groups of three playing animatedly, overcoming the noise of the heavy traffic all around. They were displaying their drumming skills and waiting to be hired for the puja pandals. We made our selection but spent more time than usual to watch and listen. It was a different feeling setting the very mood of the pujas.

The Dhak along with the kashor are a part of the festivities all the days. The dhunuji naach is never complete without the dhak. Dancing to the dhak with the earthen pots is fascinating to watch and is more like a trance. The heavy rhythm takes you away for moments listening and watching engrossed. You have to be there to experience it. The cylindrical wooden barrel covered with a tough membrane and played with two sticks is the regional drum associated with the Pujas in Bengal. Strung from the shoulders and decorated differently they produce the beats of the festivities. The frenzy of the beats, are a strong association of the Durga Puja.

Having chosen our Dhaki to set off the Puja mood we proceeded to Toto Cafe at the Alliance Francaise du Bengale on Park Street. On the 21st of September “Durga Repos” was organized at Le cafe. Puja is associated with friends and food, meetups and looking at the best. Le cafe promised a festive evening buffet with food items almost as a prelude to the pujas. There were new recipes to discover and we did have more than a bite. There was on offer chicken quiche, veg quiche, toasted chicken, vegetarian and cheese sandwiches, a very tasty chicken crepe and a vegetarian crepe.

There were a number of tough-watering desserts too. We ordered one of each and tried out a little of all. There were Crepes with numerous fillings such as chocolate, banana chocolate, salidou and with jam. It was an occasion to gather together. The traditional puja celebration was set off with a mix of continental choice of menu and blended well with a touch of the east and the west. More important was the meeting of friends to discuss and plan when and where to go for the puja.

There were heritage puja tours organized to Bonedi Barir Puja Parikrama. As we discussed the heritage puja trips to take and visit specially the all-night visits to  vintage household pujas of the times when rich zamindars organized Durga Puja in their courtyards. Some of them are Bow Bazar P.C Chandra Barir Pujo, Chatu Babu and Latu Babu’s Pujo, Shovabazar Rajbari (Raja Radhakanta Dev’s Palace and Maharaja Nabakrishna Dev’s Palace), Rani Rashmoni Barir Pujo are just a few of the places that would be covered by the all- night tour of the city to enjoy and celebrate not only Durga Puja but also the heritage associated with it. The evening at Alliance Francaise du Bengale had just set us in the mood for the celebrations.