Neglect shrinks royal pond

Dry Raja Talab raises Durga ritual concerns

By Praduman Choubey
  • Published 26.09.15
Raja Talab in Jharia looks like a swamp now. (Gautam Dey)

The princely state of Jharia, which was under Calcutta Presidency during the British rule, may be a thing of past, but it has been continuing its tradition of Durga Puja since 1861, attracting devotees from far-flung places.

The 154-year-old Durga Mandir rituals are, however, under threat because Raja Talab, where nabapatrika snan and pratima bisarjan take place, has almost dried up.

The shrinking pond will also affect three other Durga Pujas - Mukherjee Mela, Mishir Mela and Chotir Mela - that were started by chief priests who later became zamindars of the Jharia estate.

Though the Dhanbad district administration had sanctioned Rs 58 lakh for desilting of the oldest pond in Jharia last year, the municipal corporation is yet to complete work, turning the 8.64-acre Raja Talab into a grazing ground.

The state urban development department had also sanctioned Rs 3.5 crore for beautification of the royal pond, which was dug up during the reign of Raja Durga Prasad Singh in the 1920s, besides building a water treatment plant.

Although mayor Chandrashekhar Agarwal has promised to look into the matter, a group of senior citizens, social workers and traders of Jharia led by Madhavi Singh, a royal descendant, have decided to broach the matter with chief minister Raghubar Das and governor Droupadi Murmu in early October.

"We are worried about Raja Talab. It symbolises the opulence of not only Jharia, but the entire Coal Belt," said Gopal Agarwal, the owner of Deshbandhu Cinema.

Throwing light on the traditional Durga Puja, Ranjit Singh, another royal descendant said, "Our ancestor, Raja Sangram Singh, had come from Rewa in Madhya Pradesh. During a battle against the Dom Raja of Sindri in 1860, a sword got stuck in his right palm, which didn't come out despite all efforts. Praying to Goddess Durga, Sangram promised her a lavish puja if she saved him. And, the legend goes, that the sword did come out after that."

Keeping his word, the grateful king constructed the temple near the old fort and started Durga Puja in 1861.

The temple was later renovated by his descendants, including Raja Durga Prasad Singh during whose reign Raja Talab was born.