In the heart of Balurghat, a tradition dating back nearly 300 years continues to captivate locals during the auspicious occasion of Kali Puja. Initiated by the sukul zamindar of the region, this distinctive celebration features the simultaneous worship of seven Kali goddesses.
Residents from the Mahinagar area of the Danga Gramme Panchayat actively participate in this age-old ritual, where a dedicated priest conducts puja in seven separate mandaps. Interestingly, one of the Kali pujas has been discontinued in recent times, but the ritualistic practices remain intact.
The uniqueness of this celebration lies in the fact that a single priest conducts puja for all seven Kali goddesses. Despite the closure of one of the pujas, the immersion ceremony still takes place promptly after the day-long festivities.
This tradition, which traces its origins to the sukul zamindar of Balurghat almost three centuries ago, involves the priest touring the entire area to perform puja for each Kali goddess. Notably, the immersion ceremony for Ghatkali takes place the morning after the puja, maintaining a practice rooted in history.
However, changes have occurred over time, and the Sannyas Kali puja has relocated under the administration of a government-owned agricultural farm. Organisers attribute the suspension of the puja to this shift.
Each year, the Ghatkali Puja attracts a crowd, turning the area into a vibrant fairground. Locals view the seven Kali goddesses as seven sisters, with devotees from different localities identifying with specific manifestations of the goddess. Notable locations include Bamakali in the school mode, Surkali in the St. Peter's area, Chandikali in Mahinagar, Nirdaya Kali by the riverbank, Budakali in the Mission area, Sannyas Kali, and Ghatkali at the immersion ghat.
According to local beliefs, Ghatkali holds a special place as the youngest of the seven sisters. Consequently, her puja marks the conclusion of the entire celebration. In adherence to tradition, the priest does not immerse the idols in the river. Instead, a pond, created by cutting a part of the riverbank, serves as the site for the immersion ceremony.
This year, as in the past, a dedicated priest will conduct puja for all seven Kali goddesses throughout the night, with the immersion ceremony scheduled for the next morning. The adherence to these time-honoured practices reflects the deep-rooted cultural significance of Balurghat's Kali Puja celebration.