It's been said that 200 years ago, Durga Puja began at Dinajpur's Bahin Zamindar Bari. Over time, circumstances have changed, and the grandeur of those zamindari estates may have faded, but the spirit of Puja remains as vibrant as ever.
Legend has it that on the evening of Maha Shashti, drops of pegions's blood from the lotus feet of the goddess were imprinted on the riverbank of Bahin. It was here that the head priest, known as the Kul Purohit, would perform rituals after taking a ceremonial dip in the river.
From there, the goddess's idol, after descending from the Himalayan mountains into the river, would make her way to the ‘Thakur Dalan’ in the evening.
On the second day of the goddess's arrival, in the early hours of Mahashtami, the women of the family would collect holy water from the river to consecrate the Mangal Ghat. This marked the beginning of Durga Puja at the Bahin Zamindar Bari.
It's told that this tradition started with Harendranarayan Ray Choudhury, the son of the estate's Ishwarchandra Ray Choudhury.
Mahashtami was significant, and devotees from Bihar travelled to witness the festivities. The estate welcomed a host of visitors, and everyone was allowed to enter the premises.
Kolkata's renowned artists would perform plays and processions from Saptami to Navami. Following this, the grand fair at the extensive grounds near the Thakur Dalan began on Dashami.
Durga Puja festivities were inseparable from music and dance, with artists from Kolkata setting the stage for a lively atmosphere. The celebration lasted for four days.
Interestingly, Durga Puja, the focal point of cultural and artistic expression, was the driving force behind the establishment of theatre groups. The art of staging plays became a significant part of these festivities.
For years, the Bahin Zamindar Bari continued to uphold the tradition, eventually evolving into the grand celebration that it is today. Despite the changes, the spirit of Durga Puja remains strong, and this historic estate continues to offer a glimpse into the past.
As the years pass and urbanisation alters the landscape, these traditions remind us of a rich and culturally significant history. Durga Puja at Bahin Zamindar Bari is more than a celebration; it's a living testament to a heritage that refuses to fade.