There are two pujas that are held in my ancestral home’s family altar- Durgapuja and Kalipuja. One worships Goddess Durga, the other worships Goddess Kali. Both are two forms of one eternal Goddess, the first one is when she is at peace, the second one when she is angry.
Every other important puja is offered in the name of my family but in the temples that our ancestors have built for that purpose, by the priests who has been holding our pujas for generations. We dont attend them, only pay the bills. 🙂
I took to these two pujas just like a duck takes to water after landing in Burdwan, to live with my mother after spending almost five years with my elder sister.
I dont remember whether I went to the Kalipuja from the very first one, but have been there more than I have been in Burdwan home, that is for sure.
My uncle used to come down from Kolkata, without a single miss to personally attend the affair, so after he assured us that the house is totally safe without anyone around I tagged along.
We reached the village home in afternoon, after walking for more than five kilometers under quite hot sun, both fasting, without water, food since last night’s meal. Well we made it alive! He in a better shape. 🙂
He went straight looking for the priest etc. who will hold the puja, I went to the altar, we call it pujamandap. It felt so lonely, only the Goddess was standing there. During Durgapuja there is always, almost always someone around! If not familymembers then small kids from village, enjoying themselves.
I went to the house and had my bath, changed into the silk sari (must if you are planning to do something in altar, or else wear a brand new dress), my uncle has already made arrangements of Bel leaves and hibiscus flowers to stitch garlands, my regular duty during durgapuja… so I settled down and stitched the garlands, one with Bel leaves and the other with a mixture of Bel leave and Hibiscus flower, the combination of red and green looks better than plain red i guess, and it gives a firmer structure too!
Well it took some time because unlike durgapuja, when flower and Bel leaves are miserably scarce I had plenty of them, so I stitched two nice garlands that may actually be worn by the goddess, in place of hanging from her hands like the mini durgapuja garlands did. They were so small that only Ganesha and Kartikeya could wear theirs, the three goddesses had most of their garlands hanging from their hands!
I returned home after stitching the garlands, it was already dark, and the house was supposed to look scary, really scary but it did not!
Back then I was not scared of human beings, terribly scared of ghosts, but i have never felt scared in that house, why I dont know! It is half in ruins, no one lives nearby, the nearest resident is atleast a kilometer or two away in any direction. The area in-between is full of huge trees, bamboo groves, ruins and intact houses, locked down from one durgapuja to the other, still i never felt scared there, except once, that is to come.
You cant start Kalipuja before midnight, so we started to decorate the house with the few candles we brought, I promised myself that I will bring more of them next year onwards, when we were done and have lit the candles I saw one of the most beautiful sights I have.
I cant explain how glorious that old house looked, lit up in handful of candles, standing glowing right in the middle of total darkness!
Well, after we lit the candle, keeping them burning was some task! glad that there were too little candles and too many helping hands. Our farmers came to stay with us, and they were doing the running around with matchsticks because we were already at the brink of exhaustion.
Midnight came and I went for second round of bath before going to altar, pujamandap again. Believe me, when you are fasting take multiple bath, it helps, the skin soaks some water and you feel a bit more alive tee hee.
The puja started in a altar where light was very little, only a petromax and a few lanterns. The Goddess looked scary and very beautiful. Outside the pujamandap it was pitch dark. I took care to stay as far away from those dark areas 🙂
Then came the worst part, a part which I guess stopped me from bonding with the Goddess, the animal sacrifice, a thing that has slipped my mind when I came here, that animal sacrifice is must for Kalipuja.
Well even though it is not allowed, it is absolutely barred I took a flight, I went to the house and sprawled on the mat in the verandah. Too tired, while the drums and kansis reached their crescendo to subdue the screams of the poor animal 😦
Well, I too had my dose of horror here in the verandah.
I was almost drowsy when I heard it, a clear thudding sound coming from the hall, right beside the verandah where i was lying. I did not opened the door, it was locked and there was no one inside it! I knew that. I got up, sat there, confirming that I heard it right, it started again thud… thud… thud… I took flight and went out to the main gate, there are sitting arrangments there, I settled down on one.
Barely five minutes have passed the sound repeated itself again… right behind me, I turned (I am the adamant type of jittery legs, I have to see the ghost before screaming or fainting) and had the laugh (or relief?) of my life!
The people of Burdwan were bursting the crackers, and the sound was floating across the only thing that was separating the two places… Damodar river and his miles of sand bank 🙂
Well the animal sacrifice was over, so I went back to the altar for the arati and offering my pushpanjali-floral tribute to the Goddess.
But the blood-stained altar ruined my love for the Goddess for years to come, it returned later, in a strange way, when my life got invaded by monsters I felt her presence far more strongly than any other Gods or Goddesses, even though I never called out to her before that, I still can see her whenever I concentrate!
Guess she truly is the protecting power of our family and its members, even if we walk away from the family!
Well when we returned to the house after puja it was already dawn, the birds were chirping and I was feeling downright sick! 🙂
I felt as if someone has razored my throat, I could not drink a single thing or swallow anything for days to come.
After some rest we returned home, my uncle passed the instructions to the priests for the puja of remaining two days, the Goddess will be immersed on Bhatridwitiya, the day after the next day of Kalipuja (mostly). Till then only Food, drink and arati is done. No elaborate affairs.
I tried fasting only once more, that time i fell so sick that i stopped trying it. But went there for years, till i became afraid of human beings 🙂 Every year with candles and lot of earthen lamps, I really loved sprucing up that house that was once home to my ancestors.
I wish I had these gadgets back then!