We all know Durga Puja is one of the biggest festivals in Bengal and as well as in India. And not only in India but in all corners of the world. In long years the Puja has changed in many ways. But one thing remained unchanged. That is the pure bliss, the joy, the excitement that has never changed throughout the years. The style of Durga Puja in Calcutta during the British period was a little different. Even before the British rule, the Durga festival was celebrated in Calcutta even during the Muslim period. Earlier, Durga Puja was not so glamorous at that time, then Raja Krishnachandra of Nadia was the first to bring great splendor to this festival. And seeing his glorious Durga Puja festival, those who became rich during the time of the British government also started the same glorious worshiping of goddess Durga.
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Durga Puja Invitation
From the middle of the eighteenth century till the rule of the famous Act No. 10 of 1840, Durgoutsab was the best social festival in Calcutta irrespective of the class of the society. The joy of the natives in this festival is more than that of the company. From Esplanade to Enntali, from Latbahadur to normal clerk, no one could have dreamed of leaving Calcutta during Pujo. Most of the time they were almost ready to wait when Pujo’s invitations would come from different big houses.
Nemantanne ( Invitation) never made mistakes. During Durga Puja, Durga Puja tickets or invitation cards used to go to different houses. At that time generous advertisements were published for the common people on behalf of the big zamindars. Advertising was an invitation for everyone. Because Babura knew, even though the occasion was Durga, this festival was the festival of the company. In the beginning, just like the money given by the company, in the end, the only desire was to get the company’s favor.
Britishers Holiday During Durga Puja
In the late nineteenth century, British officers based in Calcutta started going out of Calcutta with their families during Durga Pujo. They went on vacations to various places in Shimla, Manali, Darjeeling. Following in the footsteps of the British, the Babu community in Calcutta at that time used to leave Calcutta. At that time, Durga Puja meant to them to travel outside Calcutta like the British. The Barwari Durga festival did not start in Calcutta at that time. Durga Puja used to perform only in the house of the big zamindar of Calcutta. Durga Puja was not performed in large numbers, as all the zamindars or big people in Calcutta used to travel outside Calcutta. At that time Pujo was not so glorious in Calcutta. But from that time onwards this touring tradition began. So far, the people of Kolkata have gone out of Kolkata for the Pujo holidays.
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Apart from various pleasures of dancing, singing, and drinking during the puja, the people of the Babu community in Kolkata used to free the prisoners who were in debt. In the old days, a class of prisoners could be released only if they repaid the loan. At that time some rich people used to repay their debts and release those prisoners. They used to release more English prisoners to please the British government. As a result, during the puja season or at the small causal court, a crowd of underage people would gather. They want to go to jail right now, before Pujo. Because there is the hope of liberation soon.
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50 Rupees Durga Puja
At that time British officials used to perform Durga Puja with their own money. One of the employees of the company used to do Durgotsab with his own money. He is John Chips, the famous manufacturer of Hunter’s Annals of Rural Bengal. The popular ‘Sree Chikbahadur’ of Birbhum. When Chips set foot in Calcutta as a writer for the company in 1782, he was only sixteen years old. Within a few years, it was heard that he had been appointed Auditor General of the company. In due course (1787) he was appointed the first commercial agent of the company in Birbhum. The company then traded in cotton, silk, lacquer, dyes, etc. Chips added to that, personal business. The company’s office was in Sonamukhi, and Chips’ home was in Surule, near Santiniketan. Shyamkishore, a descendant of Lord Singh of Raipur, was the dewan of chips.
He started Durga Puja in the words of his Dewan Shyamkishore to improve his business. Chips already knew about the company’s official mood about Durgotsab. He organized the Durgo festival of the people with pomp and circumstance. And he used to believe that this Durga Pujo was the reason why his business flourished and every year Chips continued to perform Durga Pujo in his place. Mr. Chips used to spend only fifty rupees a year on this. Pujo costs only seventeen rupees. With the rest of the money, the people of the village used to get new clothes, and a full feast on the day of Mahasthami.
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