One sweltering afternoon, when my colleagues and I stepped into Nawabpur road , the hustle and bustle of the busy area and the long lines of vehicles which blocked the road was overwhelming for us. Our goal was to explore through the streets of Old Dhaka and have a peek into the preparations for Durga Puja. From Nababpur, we started walking towards Shakharibazar because the traffic was at a halt and the narrow lanes could barely fit a rickshaw. Nevertheless, we were excited and full of anticipation about our journey.
Once we reached Pogose School, we saw that bamboo structures were already being built as part of the upcoming festivities. Although not in a large scale, but we saw that the arrangements for Durga Puja had already begun. The shops which sell the varieties of items needed for Puja were busy with polishing, sewing, cleaning and most importantly, creating the Protima (the idols).
We began exploring with the metal shops which were stocking up on lamp holders, pots, idols and many more made of brass, copper and bell-metal. When asked about the price range, the shopkeeper informed us that it begins with 800 taka per kilo and the price of the brass idols starts with 1100 taka per kilo. Many devotees were already placing orders and the shop would soon become busy with orders pouring in from across the country.
The next shop we visited specializes in making the elaborate and intricately designed head pieces or churas for the idols. Owner of the shop, Sanjib Nandi shared that the readymade ones would sell from 4000 to 6000 taka whereas the ordered ones would sell for 12000 to 15000 taka. His assistants were carefully joining small pieces of polystyrene foam with glue which would eventually become a beautiful chura. The raw materials came from India and Srilanka. The more we were exploring, the more we were intrigued with everything around us; the colors, the scents, the decorations, everything!
Durgaprotima is incomplete without accessories such as the Moyurpakha (peacock feathered fans), Shangkha (conch shell) and garlands of synthetic flowers. The price of the fans are usually 150-200 taka and the garlands sell for about 300 taka. We were mesmerized with the array of vibrant colored Saris for the idols, all of them had vivid designs of gold and silver all over them and sells at 200-400 taka per gauge. There are other shops which sells the maatirprodip (clay lamps) at 2-3 taka a piece.
Our final destination was the place everyone referred to as ‘Bahanno number’ (House 52). This was where we witnessed few of the idols being made from clay and straw, the face of Durga was covered because the tradition is to reveal her face only after her third eye is drawn. Our photographer was able to snap a few pictures of the idols that were set out to dry and then later layered with paint. The idols varied in size and shape but all of them were beautifully crafted.
Evening had already set and the shops were closing down and we wrapped up our work. We had a long day and our hunger took us to the Beauty Boarding in Bangla Bazar. This place does not require any introductions and whoever has been living in Dhaka for long, surely knows of its glorious past. Once a popular and lively hanging out place for writers, educationists and philosophers, the boarding house still maintains its quality food and atmosphere. We concluded our day on a delicious note with a simple yet scrumptious dinner of rice, chicken, vegetables and milk tea.
Those who want to witness the true essence of Durga Puja, the old parts of the capital are the places to visit. We had a glimpse of it and it was absolutely magical!
Photo: Chinmoy Chakravorty &
Shadman Muhtasim Chowdhury
Promila Kanya & Badhan Sarkar