Dr. Anjan K Das
The Pujas are just a few weeks away. The Bengali month of Bhadra is drawing to a close and Aswin will start next week, formally inaugurating the autumn season. When we lived in Calcutta the Bengali seasons went by almost unnoticed, but in Siliguri it is still possible to discern the procession of the seasons. I am now far away from Bengal, but I can imagine the hot sun and sharp showers that must be plaguing those working out of doors. The forests of North Bengal, are, I am sure , green with new growth and the undergrowth has grown, concealing the forest floor. The Teesta will be flowing at its highest and the paddy fields are green, the breeze causing waves to flow over them. The Jute crop is being harvested and the fibre is being separated in all the ponds of Bengal.
The Saluk flowers are just showing themselves, the white flowers raising their heads from the waterbodies where they have lain dormant or the past eight months. The pink ones are particularly common near the Teesta and while they will only come to their full glorious bloom only in winter, they are first seen during the Autumn festival and to me they have always been one of Nature’s ways of reminding me that the Pujas are here.
The kaash flowers are also blooming, I am sure, along the rivers. The patches of white flowers. swaying in the Autumn breeze also has been, as long as I can remember, one of the first signs of the advent of Goddess Durga. The Mahananda, The Teesta and the Torsa all are home to vast patches of kaash, the sight of which always is associated, in my mind, with the dhak drummers of Bengal. I can never forget the sight of miles of kaash flowers along the Koshi river in Nepal, one year when we were returning from Pokhara for the Pujas. The picture is of kaash flowers along the Teesta some years ago, when we were travelling to Jalpesh.
The sculptors are busy fashioning the images. I wish I could have seen a Puja in a Zamindari house where the image comes up in the house and you can see every part of its fashioning. However whenever we pass any of the Kumartolis, I always pause to see where they have reached in their construction. I reckon that the images basic structure is complete and the finer touches are being given these days.
The pandals must be coming up too. In Calcutta people must be cursing the difficulties they are already causing to the traffic, but in the districts the Puja committees are usually more considerate, and the bamboo framework must already be up, ready to be transformed , by the decorators art into the Taj Mahal, or the Parthenon or even on one famous occasion the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I will be going home too. I hope to be in Calcutta on the day after Mahalaya and in Siliguri a couple of days after. Our yearly visit to the Jalpesh temple is due and we will make the pilgrimage on Panchami day. My daughter will be home as well for her holidays and for a week at least the family will be complete.
I cannot wait to eat singara, misti doi and ilish mach. I plan to eat and read all the Puja annuals and listen to Bengali music. For this time of the year is the time for a bout of Bengali nostalgia, overeating and family. God bless all of you who will be doing the same!