Worshipping the goddess of learning

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By DALIA MUKHERJEE
  • Published 14.02.14
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Saraswati puja at ‘Master Bari’ in Bataitala Bazar is a big event for locals, particularly this year being the 50th anniversary of the puja. Like previous years, host Pranab Mukherjee and his family had organised a grand cultural evening on the terrace of the house. What Pranab and his niece had started as fun has now become an annual event.

“In 1965, my niece and I decided to perform Saraswati puja just for the fun of it. Little did we realise that it would become a tradition and family gathering. Since ours is a family of teachers, people would expect Saraswati puja to be performed at our house every year,” said Pranab. The family of over 50 heads gets together to organise this puja every year. More than the rituals, the cultural extravaganza in the evening, organised and performed by the family members themselves, is the highlight of the day. “Earlier, we had an open ground in front of the house where we could accommodate 250 to 300 people, including relatives, friends and neighbours. After the plot was sold, we have to organise the programme on the terrace,” said Pranab.

Although the face of the idol is covered till the day of the puja, for the 50th year, the family members had asked for a formal inauguration. “We had invited journalist Rathin Banerjee to inaugurate the puja a day before,” said Pranab. Saraswati puja is a day out for the Mukherjee family members, who keep their kitchens closed on that day. The khichuri lunch and luchi-torkari dinner are prepared in the courtyard and served to all those who come to the house on that day.

The cultural programmes are the most important part of the puja. It starts with chanting of a Saraswati stuti that was composed by Chinmoyee Mukherjee, a classical artiste in the family. “The women of the house chant this stuti after which there are a number of cultural events like recitation, dance and singing, all by the family members themselves. This year, we staged two plays, Sibaram Chakraborty’s Labher Belay Ghonta and Dampotto Kaloho,” said Pranab.

Saraswati puja was celebrated at Santragachhi Public Library with exhibitions on the lives of Ashutosh Mukherjee, Sisir Kumar Bhaduri and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. This was arranged in view of the 150th birth anniversary of Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, 125th anniversary of Sisir Bhaduri and 175th anniversary of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. The exhibitions were inaugurated by former judge, Chittatosh Mukherjee on February 3. Mukherjee presented a book written on a diary of Ganga Prasad Mukhopadhyay, Sir Ashutosh’s father. The exhibition was on till February 6. Since last year, the library has been organising an impromptu speech competition among school students. This year’s competition was tough and the winners defeated the runners-up by a fraction. Sri Ramakrishna Shiksalaya stood first, Santragachhi Kedarnath Institution was second and Baksara High School was third.