Historic reservoir gets mayor's clean-up worship

Unkempt Raja Talab of Jharia gets a quick makeover to be able to host age-old purification rituals

By Praduman Choubey
  • Published 15.10.15
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DMC labourers clear hyacinths from the royal pond in Jharia, Dhanbad, on Wednesday. Picture by Gautam Dey

Dhanbad mayor Chandrashekhar Agarwal has responded to an SOS of Jharia residents to save an old tradition of the erstwhile princely estate of Jharia this Durga Puja.

Work to clean up Jharia's historic Raja Talab and make it fit for holy rituals associated with the over-150-year-old Rajbari Durga Puja began on Tuesday evening on a war footing. On Wednesday, 18 labourers engaged by Dhanbad Municipal Corporation (DMC) are cleaning hyacinths that shroud the 8.64-acre Raja Talab in Bhagatdih area. Local councillor Hulaso Devi is supervising the work.

The pond, which saw its mega Rs 58-lakh project to desilt and beautify it winding up incomplete with the onset of monsoon this year, was a cesspool of filth and hyacinth, unfit for holy rituals.

Seeing the dismal condition of the pond, Jharia residents, including descendants of the princely estate and priests, had decided to write to chief minister Raghubar Das and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

But, Agarwal responded in time, embarking on not just this clean-up initiative, but also planning to arrange fresh water for Raja Talab so that all the rituals are held with full sanctity.

Apart from navpatrika snan or kalabou snan, an important purification ritual on Saptami, the ekchala idols are also immersed at Raja Talab on Dashami.

"We won't allow any compromise of the age-old tradition," said Agarwal. "We are exploring the possibility of refilling the pond with fresh water for which we may take the help of Bharat Coking Coal Limited."

He added that cleaning of altogether 90 ponds situated across the district had been launched three-four days ago to make them fit for Chhath in November.

Sanitary inspector of Jharia circle, Dhanbad Municipal Corporation, Krishna Chaubey said: "Intensive cleaning of hyacinths is on. We plan to revive the pond in a way that the tradition of carrying out the immersion can be maintained."

A vocal member of the Jharia royal family Madhavi Singh, who also chairs citizens' vigilance committee constituted by residents to look after Raja Talab cleansing, lauded the municipality's efforts. "We would like the cleaning operation to continue even after Durga Puja so that the pond regains its old glory."

The tradition of the Puja of Jharia's princely estate started in 1861, when the then ruler Raja Sangram Singh, while fighting a battle with Dom Raja of Sindri at Chauthai Kulhi area of Jharia faced an unusual predicament when a sword got stuck in his right hand. The king invoked goddess Durga to help him, promising to start Durga Puja in a grand way.

The king kept his word, constructing the Durga Mandir. A few decades later, Raja Talab was built near the temple for religious rituals associated with Durga Puja.

"Over 100 other Puja committees wait for navpatrika snan and visarjan of the Rajbari Puja (Durga Puja of the Jharia princely estate) to get over as a mark of respect and then start their own," Sujit Mishra of the Mishir Mela Puja Committee, Jharia, said.