| Maharani Poonam Sahi of Hathuwa Raj prays at the temple of Thawe Devi in Gopalganj. Telegraph picture |
Few families have given a spirited fight to the onslaught of inflation, threatening to dampen the grandeur of traditional Pujas. The successors of the Dumraon estate in Buxar district are one among them.
They still step out in traditional gear, pagdi (turban) and sherwani, on Dashami to worship their weapons at the Bihariji temple near their palace.
Ratneshwar Singh (55), a teacher, said: “The royalty here has gradually lost its shine. Earlier, shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan and his family members used to perform near the temple. The tradition was discontinued. The royals came on elephants in the past. Now, they come in cars. All prominent traders, landlords and citizens used to make it a point to come to the temple on the occasion of Durga Puja in the yesteryears. Now, only the members of the royal family and their employees visit it.”
In Gopalganj, Thawe temple is promoted and patronised by the Hathuwa Raj. Maharaja Jubraj Sahi had built it in the 17th century. Every politician from adjoining districts and even from Uttar Pradesh visits the temple before going on a campaign.
When Jubraj was on the verge of losing a war against Afghan chief Raja Kabul Mohamed of Barhaiya, he and his troops managed to escape into a dense forest. Goddess Durga appeared in Jubraj’s dream and told him that he would find a jackal on the left and a serpent on the right of the entrance to the forest the next morning. “Let go of the former and kill the latter,” said the goddess.
According to the myth, Jubraj won the battle because he followed the order of Goddess Durga. After the triumph, he asked labourers to excavate the spot he relaxed inside the forest.
During excavation, he found the goddess’ idol. Since then, Thawe Devi is considered their kul devi (family deity).
Navratri is celebrated four times every year — Chaitra Navratri, Gupt Navratri (Poush and Ashadh) and Sharadiya Navratri — at Thawe temple. Each time, the royal family goes to its ancestral Hathuwa palace in Gopalganj.
On the eighth day of Navratri, a goat is sacrificed (bali). The first sacrifice has to be made by a royal inside the temple. The rest of the sacrifices are offered on the temple campus. Lakhs of people visit the Thawe temple during Durga Puja. “All of us believe in the spirit of the goddess. Without fail, all our family members visit our ancestral house. We offer prayers to the goddess observing the rites and rituals,” said Kaustuv Sahi, a 34-year-old member of the Hathuwa Raj family.
At several places, Durga Pujas sponsored by royalty have petered out owing to the dwindling fortunes of the families.
The Bettiah Raj sponsored a fair during Durga Puja right from the 19th century. Now, it has lost both its attraction and importance. Curtains came down on the Puja celebrations in Durga Baag and Kali Baag with the demise of Maharaja Harendra Kishore Singh.
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