Although mega-budget theme-based club Pujas are the highlight of South Dinajpur district, there are over 75 household pujas across the district that require mention with some of them dating back to over a century on their beginning.
The oldest of the household pujas is the one organized at the ancestral abode of the Chowdhury family at Baidul, located on the bank of Atreyee River at the outskirts of Balurghat town. The puja, also known as 'Maa Bhagabatir Pujo' is to step onto its 105th year this festive.
The Chowdhury family, who were reputed zamindars during the British era, started observing Durga puja a century ago under the patronage of Prasanna Lal Chowdhury.
"Our grandfather used to tell us that the puja began sometime in the last century," said one of the family members, Amit Kumar Chowdhury. "A specialty of the puja is that in between Mahaastami and Maha-nabami, senior family members' fire blanks in Sandhi Puja," he added.
Thousands of devotees across the district visit the puja. Apart from puja rituals being strictly adhered to according to the shastras, a "Mangalchandi gaan' rendered every night during the festival adds more colour and sanctity to its observance.
The Natmandir and other buildings on the household premises, appropriately illuminated evoke the old world ambience. "We get transported to a world different from the materialistic one we are now living in; a world of simplicity and devotion where relations are unfettered by selfish utilitarianism," said a local, Dilip Mondal. "We are proud of maintaining our ancestral tradition. Absorbed as we remain in the strict performance of the puja rituals, we find no time for pandal hopping. Moreover, we do not feel like getting out of the magically evocative ambience of the family puja," said another family member, Kinnari Chowdhury.
The oldest one is organized at the ancestral abode of the Chowdhury family at Baidul.