Monday, 30th October 2017

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Theft at puja older than city

Thieves struck at a 353-year-old Durga Puja that predates Isaac Newton's discovery of gravitation, stealing all the jewellery on the idol at Dhoradaha village in Nadia last night.

By SUBHASISH CHAUDHURI
  • Published 1.10.17
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The deity at the Chaudhuri family’s puja in Dhoradaha on Friday. Picture by Swapna Bhattacharyya

Karimpur (Nadia), Sept. 30: Thieves struck at a 353-year-old Durga Puja that predates Isaac Newton's discovery of gravitation, stealing all the jewellery on the idol at Dhoradaha village in Nadia last night.

Even disregarding their antique value, the gold and silver ornaments, some of them dating to the 17th century, were worth more than Rs 8 lakh, said Hinendra Nath Chaudhuri, patriarch of the family that organises the puja.

No arrests have been made but Nadia police chief Sheesh Ram Jhajharia said he was hopeful of cracking the case. Chaudhuri's son Arghya, a schoolteacher, is a local Trinamul leader.

Chaudhuri, a retired teacher himself, said the puja had been taking place since 1664, when Aurangzeb was emperor of India and Shaista Khan his subahdar (governor) in Bengal. Calcutta was still 26 years from being founded.

The stolen jewellery included necklaces, earrings, tiaras, nose rings with chains, gold crowns and silver jewellery besides a dozen-odd saris, Chaudhuri said.

Police sources said that Bishu Pal, a domestic help, noticed the theft around 4am. The two civic police volunteers assigned to guard the puja through the night had left by 3am, according to Chaudhuri's complaint.

Chaudhuri said the family had gone to bed well past midnight. "We are in shock; our puja had never witnessed a theft in over three-and-a-half centuries," he said.

"They even stole the saris. Who does that? This has destroyed the festival not only for the family but for the whole area."

He added: "But since the puja had never before been halted for any reason, we continued with all the rituals today. We weren't going to let the puja suffer because of this. Since the thieves had clearly touched the idol, we started with a cleansing ritual."

Pal said he had woken at 3.15am to pluck flowers for the day's rituals. "I came to the mandap to get a container for the flowers and saw the civic police volunteers were gone, and so was the jewellery," he said.

Chaudhuri said the police had promised that the civic police volunteers would stay at their post till at least 5am every day.

"The role of these two civic police volunteers is being examined in the investigation," an officer said.