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Family members recall author at historic puja

The relatives of Bengali novelist and Devdas author Saratchandra Chattopadhyay will celebrate their traditional Jagadhatri puja with great pomp and show on November 11.

Sunday was the Asthami of Jagadhatri puja this year.

The Ganguli family of Manik Sarkar Ghat Road in Bhagalpur has been celebrating Jagadhatri puja since 1819. An ancestor of the current members, Ramadhan Ganguli, migrated to the north Bihar town from Halisahar in Bengal in 1817.

Ajit Shankar Ganguli, a relative of Saratchandra, said: “Ramadhan’s elder son Kedarnath started the puja in Bhagalpur.”

Kedarnath’s daughter Bhubanmohini was Saratchandra’s mother. After his birth, Saratchandra’s father Motilal Chattopadhyay migrated to Bhagalpur from his native place (Debanandapur in Hooghly district of Bengal).

In Bhagalpur, which has been the setting of a number of Saratchandra novels, the author used to live in the Ganguli house. He studied at Durga Charan Primary School and was involved in the puja.

“In the early 1930s, many members of the family went back to Bengal. Saratchandra’s cousin Surendranath encountered enormous difficulties is continuing with the puja. It had to be stopped for a year (in 1934),” said Ajit.

He added: “But with active support and patronage from Saratchandra the puja restarted.”

However, after the death of the author in 1938, the puja had to be stopped again. It was restarted only in 1946. Since then, it has been celebrated every year with active participation and patronage of family members.

Highlighting the historic importance of the puja, the general secretary of the Bhagalpur chapter of the Bihar Bengalee Association, said: “The Jagadhatri puja of the Ganguli family reflects a heritage of our town. We are very proud of this puja, in which Saratchandra used to participate.”

The youngest member of the Ganguli family, Soumyajal, 8, is very excited about the celebrations. He said: “I have many new clothes and have also been given permission to skip school tomorrow (Monday). I have invited all my friends to come home and celebrate the puja with me.”

Soumyajal’s father Santanu Ganguli said: “Saratchandra also used to celebrate the festival like Soumyajal. He used to invite all his friends.”

Not all is fun and joy at the puja though. The rising prices of commodities and material required for the puja has made it very difficult for the family to maintain standards.

Santanu said: “The patronage of the family members — some of whom live in Bhagalpur and others elsewhere — has helped carry on with the puja despite the inflation. Our ancestors had started the puja and Saratchandra Chattopadhyay was involved with it. So, we try to carry on with it despite the challenges.”