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190-yr-old Durga puja to recycle idol

Sep 29, 2022

KOLKATA: The 190-year-old Girish Bhavan puja is the first old house puja to break away from the tradition of immersion in Adi Ganga

With the river's pollution reaching the zenith, the members of the family have, for the first time, decided to melt the idol with hose and water at Girish Bhavan and conserve the clay for the next year's idol making. 

For this, the family has changed the age-old 'kathamo' (age-old bamboo structure on which the idols assume shapes), which became fragile and worn out after surviving 189 years, into an iron and aluminium structure so that water-hose does not affect the structure. "We have kept the old structure as an heirloom. Hope our move will inspire others not to pollute rivers any more," said Anirban Mukherjee who has been hand-holding the next generation for puja responsibility. 

Harchandra Mukherjee, a trader of molasses, began the puja in 1832. His son Girish Mukherjee, a close associate of Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, who changed his profession from a teacher at Sankrit College to a lawyer on the advice of Vidyasagar, built the current 'thakurdalan' (the courtyard temple). Vidyasagar's will carries the signature of Girish Mukherjee. 

Significantly, during the puja, this 'thakurdalan' also saw the acting debut of Uttam Kumar, Bengal's biggest matinee-idol. "The members and friends of the Mukherjee family stage play every puja. The tradition is still alive. Uttam Kumar's first stage show was on this 'thakurdalan' that also saw his last acting in 1975," said Sanghamitra Banerjee, the eldest daughter of the 8th generation from Harachandra. 

"Our tradition is to carry Ma Durga on our shoulders to Adi Ganga and immerse her and retrieve the 'kathamo'. But we realised that we are only adding to the enormous pollution load of the river. Moreover, we felt guilty for immersing Ma in the polluted water. So, we decided to hold the immersion differently," said Anirban. Following the age-old tradition, the darpan (mirror) will be immersed on Dashami morning. 

But instead of immersing the idol in the Adi Ganga, a powerful hose will be used to melt the idol into clay in an artificial pond (immersion in the river has the same consequence). "Once the idol gets melted into clay, the water will be drained out to preserve the clay for the next year's idol making," said Anirban. 

Environment activist Somendra Mohan Ghosh, who is closely associated with the 'Save Adi Ganga Movement' said, "It's a bold step to combine science and religion for reducing the toxic load in the holy river. Girish Bhavan set an unparalleled climate-resilient example of reduce-recycle and reuse. I hope other pujas follow the same line sooner." 

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