Even after 74 years of Independence, hatred for the British exists in the hearts of every Indian. In West Bengal, the hatred had been turned into a tradition, and the seed was sown 150 years ago.
Kolkata is known for its “Bonedi Barir Pujo“, and one such family has been for the last 150 years adorning asura as a British sahib. In Bhowanipore Dey Bari, the demon god shuns his traditional glittery outfit and wears formals that include a coat and a pair of pants. What’s more, he also has blonde hair!
Late Ramlal Dey started the puja in the year 1870. Born in 1846, Ramlal came to Kolkata from Gobordanga for business. With time, the business flourishedand so did intolerance against British oppression on Indians. According to the family lore, in 1870, goddess Durga visited Ramlal in his dreams, and the same year, he started organising the grand puja in his house.
To protest against the Raj, Ramlal ordered to dress Mahisasura in suit and boot. He thus made the family puja stand out in the crowd of other such endeavours in the city, which otherwise were to appease the British by bestowing them with titles like Rai and Rai Bahadur.
Present-day scion and the youngest member of the family Debraj Dey, said, “As the future generation of the family, we are trying to carry on the legacy and the tradition of our ancestors for the last 150 years.”
In every household puja in the city, the basic bamboo and straw structure of the idol is called kathamo, which holds a lot of significance and here, too, the Dey family claims that the same has not been changed since the puja’s inception.
According to the popular tradition, the kathamo is offered prayers on the day of Rath Yatra.
“I have been visiting the house since my childhood days, as there is a lot of history involved in the puja and the bonding between the family members is a rare scene these days, and this attracts me more than anything,” said Debaraj’s friend Sneha Pakrashi. “Like many other houses, where Durga Puja has been celebrated for centuries together, in Dey Bari, too, the preparations start from Chathurthi when the womenfolk make coconut sweets while the men indulge in decorating the house and adorning the goddess,” said Snigdha Dey, an elder member of the family.
Apart from other rituals that almost every family pujas follow, the Dey Bari has a few of its own. The Naibidya (offerings of rice and fruits) is made out of 21kg rice here, which is not a very common scene in the city. The family also believes in carrying the idol to the Ganga on their shoulders, just like in the earlier days.