Has Chandannagar’s Jagadhhatri Puja held on to tradition?
What Durga Puja is to Kolkata, Jagaddhatri Puja is to Chandannagar. This erstwhile French Colony, has been celebrating Jagaddhatri Puja for more than three centuries. Around 350 years ago, the puja was started by Raja Krishna Chandra, who was the then Maharaja of Krishnanagar. He was travelling for some business work and was passing by Chandannagar during the time of the puja. It was then that he wished to worship the feme goddess. Some records however state the Puja was started by Indranarayan Chowdhury in a similar manner done by Raja Krishnachandra of Krishnanagar around 1762.
Whoever, might have started it, Jagaddhatri Puja of Chandannagar is an iconic festival attracting thousands from across Bengal, India and abroad. As Ujjal Mondal of the famous Mondolbari of Chandannagar says: “Jagaddhatri Puja in Chandannagar is celebrated for four days and the immersion procession is a huge affair, which is considered to be the second longest in the world, just after Rio de Janeiro’s Rio festival. What is even more interesting is that Rio has a one-way route but in Chandannagar, the procession happens in a circle. It starts from the south to north and back to south again and then the immersion takes place at Rani Ghat, Strand Road.”
Goddess Jagaddhatri in Hindu scriptures have often been related to Mayatantra and mentioned with reference to Goddess Durga in Krishnanda’s Tantrasaar. The rule to perform the special puja of the goddess on the ninth lunar day of the light fortnight in the Bengali month of Kartick has been mentioned in Krityatattarnab by Srinath Acharyachuramoni of the 15-16th century. The four-handed goddess is carried by the lion everywhere, an elephant lies at the feet of the lion. The idol usually has an old-fashioned look, with large eyes spread to the ears and four hands carrying conch, discus, shaft and bow. The snake is her sacred thread. One of the main attractions of Jagaddhatri idol of Chandannagar is the ornamental decoration of the goddess with shola (thermocoal) and beautiful canvas of mats with painting at the back of the image.
Chandannagar Jagadhhatri Puja procession list 2018
Dakshin Barasat and Helapukur Dhar
As Munna Agarwal, resident of Chandannagar and associated with the community puja says: “When it comes to traditions, we have stuck mostly to the old form. Be it the gigantic idols, ‘sholar kaaj’ or ‘chaal chitro’ --- everything remains unchanged. You will not find any fancy themes overpowering the essence of our Jagaddhatri Puja. Previously, inauguration of the Puja used to take place on the Saptami itself. But these days, following Kolkata’s footprints, some pujos start off from Panchami or even Chaturthi.”
The number of community pujas in Chandannagar, Bhadreswar and Champdani municipal areas have crossed 190. Of these, 132 Puja committees in different localities in Chandannagar and Bhadreswar are affiliated to the Chandannagar Central Jagaddhatri Puja Committee. The Central committee renders all possible assistance to its members. “The oldest puja takes place at Nichu Pati (Gunj Bazar), and the largest idol, is displayed at Tematha Puja Committee.
Chandannagar is also famous for lightings during Jagaddhatri Puja. As Agarwal adds: “Previously tuni bulbs were used in the various light decorations made, these days LED lights are used.” However, though the immersion procession is a huge draw with the beautifully decorated tall images loaded on trucks taken through lanes and by-lanes together, the attraction of Puja lighting has dampened to a large extent.
Image Courtesy: Neline Mondal