Pujar botor…

by Sunita on October 18, 2007

Image from here

‘Pujar botor’…what does that mean…well, it means the Durga puja season…the season of autumn( sorot kal, as we call it)…. when there is a slight nip in the air…when the sun shines down a bit lazily…when there are smiles all around…people moving to and and fro with that sense of urgency to reach the puja mondop and offer their prayers…to get a strategic place to stand before it gets over crowded.

The Durga Puja is celebrated in various parts of India in different styles. But the one basic aim of this celebration is to propitiate Shakti, the Goddess in Her aspect as Power, to bestow upon man all wealth, auspiciousness, prosperity, knowledge (both sacred and secular), and all other potent powers. Whatever be the particular or special request that everyone may put before the Goddess is being effected consciously or unconsciously. Everyone is blessed with Her loving mercy and is protected by Her.(From ” Hindu Fasts & Festivals ” by Sri Swami Sivananda.) It is held in commemoration of the victory of Durga over Mahishasura, the buffalo-headed demon. Her image is worshipped for nine days and then cast into water. The tenth day is called Vijaya Dasami . Processions with Her image are taken out along the streets of villages and cities.

Artisans work day and night to get the idols of the goddess completed for the big and small community pandals. I still remember standing in front of the idol of the goddess with ten hands, astride her lion, striking the demon, and being overcome by a sense of awe and respect(I still am) while taking in the smell of the dhup( incense sticks), dhuna, and lit ghee- filled earthen lamps by the numerous devotees, …somewhat heady, somewhat intoxicating. I remember the priest chanting the sloks, ringing the tilinga/bell and blowing the sonkho/conch, as we bowed our heads in front of the deity. And then, the best bit…when the priest would put a large red phoot/tilak on our forehead…a sign that one has paid one’s respects to the goddess. We used to check each other to see who got the perfect round one and exactly in the middle of the forehead, which most of us didn’t get, as there were so many foreheads to be stamped!

Away from home, my mind still has those vivid pictures of a typical day of the puja festivities when I was kid..we would eagerly look forward to those puja holidays(around 16 days!)…wake up early in the morning, have a bath, and of course wash the hair(in fact going to the pandal with wet and combed hair was the right thing to do), dress up in our puja finery(a.ka. new clothes), drag along with my ma and other ladies from the neighbourhood, dressed in beautiful mekhela sadors ( the men would be helping out in the pandals), with their hands full of offerings to the goddess. Once there, and having paid our respects,while the ladies would sit together and sing ‘durga naam’(hymns in praise of the goddess) we kids were allowed to wander nearby a bit( and since there was always someone or the other from our neighbourhood discreetly keeping an eye on us, the mums would not need to worry ); and that was usually when we would crowd around those vendors selling all those colourful goodies… all the boys and many of the girls almost always had those pistols which they fired constantly to let out clouds of smoke and leave that rancid smell in the air( somehow puja was not a puja without those pistols)…then there were those must have fashionable plastic glasses in all the colours imaginable…the balloons of course, especially those tied to a small stick and filled something to make it jingle when shaken, the beads and rings…the sakari, which was like the blades of a fan and attached to a stick which one held and ran to make the blades move round and round. It was so much fun. and oh! what about those coloured sweets that one had to have so that one could proudly show around the coloured tongue!

As we approached midday( especially on mahashtami, the eighth day), the booming sound of the priest over the microphone ,calling one and all to hurry up to give anjali (offerings of flowers to the goddess along with the chanting of sloks). As kids, there was a lot of giggling going around as we couldn’t understand all the sloks(chantings) recited in Sanskrit and which we found quite amusing, much to the annoyance of our elders. After the anjali, we would line up for the community meal of khichdi, ‘labra’( a mixed vegetable of pumpkins, cabbages , potatoes, brinjals, moolees), sometimes with ‘bilahir tok’(a tomato chutney) and always followed by ‘payash’(rice pudding)… a very simple meal but utterly divine…

In the evenings, people would dress up in their puja finery and go pandal hopping…to see the various idols in the numerous pandals. Some of the pandals, even managed to offer special effects to the idols… definite crowd pullers. As for the kids, the pistols and the balloons are still there.

On the tenth day, the idols are taken out in processions through the streets and then submerged into the river…marking the end of the ten day festivities…this is bijoya dashami. It is traditional to have sweets on this day, especially jalebis…and deuta(my father) would bring those from the famous sweet shop near our house, who worked overtime trying to meet the demands of the never ending queue of customers. As kids, dashami just meant that we get to have loads of these warm, freshly prepared jalebis, licking our sticky hands. This day is also very special for me as I got married on one dashami day…just like the goddess, I too left for my husband’s abode on one such day(it is said that the goddess goes to visit her mother during this period and returns to her husband after nine days, on dashami.).

As I grew older, and the pistols and balloons were no longer a part of my life( but it makes me sadder to wonder whether my kids will have such memories to share), I felt (and still feel now) the sense of awe and wonder when I step into a pandal and gaze upon the goddess. Of course, so far removed from home, ‘pujar botor’ is not ‘pujar botor’ anymore. But still, as we refer to the goddess as ‘Ma Durga’… the mother of mankind… I bow my head and seek her blessings.

-I’m sending this post over to dear Vee as a non food related entry for JFS:Dassera

Polariod Delicious Icon Polariod Digg Icon Polariod Email Icon Polariod Facebook Icon Polariod Reddit Icon Polariod StumbleUpon Icon Polariod Twitter Icon

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sandeepa October 18, 2007 at 11:56 am

Beautiful post here Sunita. Someone suggested I send it to Vee for JFI, I think you should too.
Our pujo memories are so very similar that it gave me a happy thought being here today.

Are you going to the Mandap today ?


2 sunita October 18, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Sandeepa,I checked out yours, and yes, the memories are indeed very similar, especially the ones related to the atmosphere around the mandaps. When we lived in Kolkata, we were totally at home during this festival.
Unfortunately, we haven’t any nearby…although we were planning to go, we couldn’t as I’m a bit under the weather…not the best time of the year for to fall sick, is it:(


3 lakshmi October 18, 2007 at 12:38 pm

I adore Mekhela Chadors – I wanted to get one on a work trip to Assam but found that the ones I liked were frightfully expensive(I’d just started on a job then) – somehow I seem to have forgotten about them after that. thanks for reminding me.


4 Siri October 18, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Lovely post Sunitha.. got to know so much from urs and Sandeepa’s post.. awesome Pujo memories..:)
A Happy Vijayadashami to you and your family..:)


5 Asha October 18, 2007 at 12:49 pm

Beautiful picture Sunita. Great post too. Have a great Durga Pooja!:)


6 sunita October 18, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Lakshmi, so you’ve been to Assam…how long were you there?
Thanks for the wishes.


7 sunita October 18, 2007 at 1:27 pm

Siri, thanks for the wishes…well, Bengali and Assamese Durga puja celebrations are very, very similar.


8 sunita October 18, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Asha, thanks…it’s not that great so far…not feeling very well.


9 Sirisha Kilambi October 18, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Nice post Sunita….Happy navratri to u dear :-)


10 Mishmash ! October 18, 2007 at 2:19 pm

I have heard a lot about these celebrations and watched only on movies…..Greetings of the season!


11 Cinnamon October 18, 2007 at 2:55 pm

That was very informative post!! Looks like you guys have a wonderful time during Dussera…!!!
BTW, Hearty Navratri Wishes!!


12 Sia October 18, 2007 at 2:59 pm

the way we celebrate navaratri may be different but the sentiments are very similar. beautiful post suni. wishing u and ur family a wonderful durga pooja.


13 Sivani October 18, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Wonderfully evocative Sunita


14 sunita October 18, 2007 at 3:16 pm

sirisha, thanks for the wishes…same to you too.


15 sunita October 18, 2007 at 3:22 pm

shn, thanks for the greetings..yes movies are very informative indeed:)


16 sunita October 18, 2007 at 3:24 pm

cinnamon,yes, puja season is really fun, more so as kids…we looked forward to it the whole year. Thanks for the wishes.


17 sunita October 18, 2007 at 3:25 pm

sia, yes, the sentiments behind any festival are usually the same…thanks for the wishes…the same to yours .


18 sunita October 18, 2007 at 3:26 pm

sivani, thanks…glad you dropped by.


19 bee October 18, 2007 at 3:36 pm

those mekhela sadors are something else. even in bombay, i loved the durga puja celebrations. that was the only festival i liked.


20 Richa October 18, 2007 at 3:49 pm

beautiful pic and details of the pooja!
Wish you a very Happy Dassera :)


21 sra October 18, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Sunita, a very happy Pooja to you!


22 sunita October 18, 2007 at 6:46 pm

bee, they are indeed very gorgeous…and yes,the atmosphere of durga puja does embrace everyone into the festivities.


23 sunita October 18, 2007 at 6:47 pm

Sra, thanks for the wishes dear.


24 musical October 18, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Such a heartfelt post, Sunita! The memories from Pooja and festival times from back home linger on, making one nostalgic each festival season…..the memories from the childhood are especially bright and fun! and happy Navaratri and Vijayadashmi to you too, dear :) . Aha! and Mekhela sadors…..i treasure mine a lot!


25 Rajitha October 18, 2007 at 9:44 pm

to show you what a foodie i am…do you have the recipe for the ‘labra’ you ate as a child….the ingredients sound so yummy!!…i think all the festivals are really not the same outside india..more importantly it is not fun as before as we are no longer kids and lack the childlike enthusiasm anymore :) ..very nice write-up..


26 sunita October 18, 2007 at 10:02 pm

musical, thanks dear…festivals do make one nostalgic…and btw, how did you manage to get hold of mekhela sador…have you ever been to Assam?…I’m intrigued.


27 sunita October 18, 2007 at 10:07 pm

rajitha, you have excelled yourself …you really are a foodie…well, I do have a recipe for it, but a few of the ingredients are missing. Let’s see what I can do. And you’re right, when you’re away from home, any festival loses it’s charm. Although the child like enthusiasm would definitely not be there, but it would be really nice if I could relive those days through my kids.


28 Cynthia October 19, 2007 at 2:18 am

I enjoyed reading your memories just as I have reading Sandeepa’s. Thanks for sharing.

The pic in your header – the still life of the bench, it is mesmerizing.


29 lakshmi October 19, 2007 at 6:05 am

I have been there for approximately three weeks in total on two different work assignments – travelled around mainly tezpur and guwahati. My best memory is crossing the Brahmaputra – I was filled with a massive amount of awe with a strange tingling fear at the same time – What a river!


30 sunita October 19, 2007 at 7:49 am

Cynthia, welcome back..you’ve been missed…really glad to be able to share those memories with you all. As for the bench, I love it too…happened to stumble upon this untouched scene and could’nt help capturing the moment.


31 sunita October 19, 2007 at 7:55 am

lakshmi, Tezpur is a beautiful , isn’t it.And the dear brahmaputra, what can I say about it…although it’s a part of our lives, I too can’t help feeling that sense of awe and wonder that it brings…when I worked in a college, I had to cross the bridge across it every morning, and every time, I looked out for the rising sun in the distant horizon which made the vast expanse of water shimmer..it is not called the ‘mighty Brahmaputra’ for nothing.


32 Prajusha October 19, 2007 at 8:51 am

hi sunita,
happy navaratri to u and ur family.Nice post.


33 sunita October 19, 2007 at 9:33 am

prajusha, thanks…wish you the seasons greetings as well.


34 Vcuisine October 21, 2007 at 12:59 pm

Nice write up as usual. Viji


35 sunita October 21, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Viji, thanks…


36 Vee October 22, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Lovely post, Sunita. Thanks for stopping by at my blog. I wouldn’t have found this post otherwise.

I didn’t know about Navrathri/Durga puja being The Devi’s maternal visit. Like us she, too, doesn’t get more than 9/10 days, does she? :D

Warm bijoya dashami greetings to you and yours!


37 sunita October 22, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Vee, welcome to my world…and you’re right, goddess or not…time limits are always there…glad you dropped by.


38 musical October 22, 2007 at 7:21 pm

The one i have is a present-my sister-in-law got me one from her trip! its really very pretty!


39 sunita October 23, 2007 at 8:52 am

musical, they really are pretty, aren’t they?


40 Rachel November 7, 2007 at 3:19 am

Ginger>interesting..i had quite a few of those to ward of my morning sickness!! am quite grateful to that spice!!!!


41 sunita November 13, 2007 at 9:38 am

rachel, glad you like ginger…it does have many medicinal benefits, doesn’t it?


42 Karthika October 3, 2011 at 1:20 am

Wow really nice Sunita…..It was like walking through your memory. Thanks for sharing….


Leave a Comment

Thank you for dropping by and leaving your constructive feedback. I appreciate and value each and every one of them and will try to answer your queries to the best of my ability.

However, at times, the virtual life may take a backseat, and I may be unable to reply to your comments as quickly as I would like to. On such occasions, please bear with me, and I will try to respond as soon as possible.

Thanks for visiting SUNITA'S WORLD. I hope you enjoy your stay here.

Happy surfing!!

Previous post:

Next post: