By Himika Ganguly

The sweet whiff of Shiuli and Kaash flowers! The onset of a slightly confused autumn preparing to dive into an ornamental winter! The blissful aroma of all kinds of signature smells!
It’s almost time for Poojo!!!
The festival that every Baangaali household awaits and prepares for every year! And going by the vastness of it, we can title it as - The Carnival of the East.
While Mahalaya, Anjali, vibrant sarees, dhunuchi naach, shonkho sounds, piping hot delicacies, khichuri bhog and well divinity and mirth in its purest forms mark this one giant celebration of human devotion to Ma Durga, let’s go back a bit and put the magnifying glass on where it all started. The origin of Bengal’s greatest celebration of love, devotion, art and life. Durga Poojo!

Lord Rama - The first devotee
Many might be unaware but Durga Poojo is also known as 'akal-bodhan' translated as out-of-season worship. As per the popular story in Ramayana, Lord Rama was the first to worship 'Mahishasura Mardini'- the slayer of the buffalo-demon form of the Goddess, by offering 108 blue lotuses and lighting 108 lamps, at this time of the year. So going by mythological records, Lord Rama began the tradition of Durga Poojo.
Now a look into history and here is where we get more factual and data oriented.
The late 1500s marked the first grand worship of Goddess Durga. The popular and affluent class of the landlords or zamindars of Bengal as more commonly addressed started this tradition. The zamindar of Dinajpur and Malda specifically. This was however a house poojo more focussed and kept limited to the courtyards of the most prosperous and wealthy class of Bengal

The 'Baaro-Yaari' Poojo. How Poojo became a subject of mass celebration
When friends get together....magic happens. So the credit here goes to twelve friends of Guptipara in Hoogly, West Bengal, who collaborated and collected contributions from local residents to conduct the first community poojo called the 'baaro-yaari' poojo or the 'twelve-pal' puja in 1790. Raja Harinath of Cossimbazar then brought the baaro-yaari puja to Kolkata in 1832. He performed the Durga Poojo at his ancestral home in Murshidabad from 1824 to 1831.

From twelve pals to community celebrations
The baaro-yaari puja then made way for the sarbajanin or community puja in 1910, when the Sanatan Dharmotsahini Sabha organized the first truly community puja in Baghbazar in Kolkata. This was the first big, grand celebration with full public contribution, public control and public participation. There on began the massive celebration culture which continued to grow with accelerated focus on display of art and fine craftsmanship, competitions, industry participation via funding, food and beverage sector involvement, opportunities for the garment and jewellery industry...however most of all, the advent of unconditional happiness in every household where Goddess Durga is considered the ultimate deity. One has to admit that the institution of the community Durga Poojo in the 18th and the 19th century Bengal contributed vigorously to the development of Hindu Bengali culture.

British Involvement in Durga Poojo
One must note that in the British era in India, high level British officials regularly attended Durga Poojo organized by influential Bengalis and British soldiers actually participated in the poojo, had bhog prasad, and even saluted the deity, but the most amazing act of worship was performed by the East India Company itself. In 1765 they offered a thanksgiving Poojo. It was a smart political act to appease their Hindu subjects, to obtain the Diwani of Bengal, though for whatever reason be, this did happen.

Kolkata to the Capital
As more Bengalis shifted from Kolkata to Delhi, so did Durga Poojo. It found a second home in the country’s capital. The first Durga Poojo in Delhi was held in 1910, when it was performed by ritually sanctifying the 'mangal kalash,' symbolizing the deity.
And here on there has not been any looking back. The simple protima has now become a subject of wonder in pandals, from two pandals in possibly three cities to today pandal hopping experiences in almost every part of the country and overseas wherever Bengalis moved and created homes in. Durga Poojo merchandise and its influence on fashion, design, art, politics, Bollywood, Bengali cinema, food...nothing stays untouched. Wow! So let us get ready for yet another year of a celebration that we will remember for years to come.

Wishing you all a very Happy Happy Durga Poojo!
Dugga Dugga!

Himika Ganguly

Himika Ganguly is a marketing and communications professional who has done extensive work in the fields of brand building, content writing, events management, social media management and public relations for organisations that are leaders in their respective sectors. She is also a published author with two fictional books titled Her Day in His Life is and The Great Indian Matrimonial Tamasha and she is currently finishing two more novels and is gearing up to put them for public viewing soon. Himika is also a visiting faculty in Management colleges. You can follow Himika on Twitter @himika1711 and at on Facebook. Alternatively you can get in touch with her on