I make my way to Chittarangan Avenue, which although even more crowded than other areas of the city, suffers less beggars and litter. I find the aptly named 'Bon Appetit,' which is a small stall specializing in Mughali snacks, alongside Chinese food and Kolkata staples. A 'veg roll,' which is like a pancake stuffed with potato curry is good value at 10 rupees. It's also delicious. My initial impression of Chittarangan having less beggars goes down in flames as two street children, no more than three or four years old, approach me and implore me for money. They are dressed in rags, covered in dust but ask for help with impeccable manners. How could I say no? I don't like to give cash, so instead I buy them both a meal. The combined total for both our meals is less than 50 cents. Even I can afford to be generous here =P
Every vehicle, and there are many, makes a sound. It would appear upon first impression that the devices emitting sound, are the most looked after aspect of any engine. From the ringing bells of the rickshaw-wallah, the ever present and always different bicycle horns, to the incessant blare of the city's taxicabs. This place is noisy.
I find a rickshaw and together we search for a hotel that admits my type. I ride for 20 minutes across town, terrified for the most part due to wheels sliding in monsoon rain, and get my first lesson in Indian road rules - there are none. Cars jostle for position and vehicles of all size and disposition weave in, out and around each other. While back home there are two lanes on a normal road, these memories are best left behind. When my driver decides to execute a U-Turn with speeding cars on either side, I decide to close my eyes and hope for the best.
There is only one rule in Indian traffic - use the horn at all times. This means that basically anything else is, if not permissible than entirely corruptible.
I am not too sure where to place this tip- but anyway- here it is.
We ,despite having travelled extensivly in India, came upon a 'first' in Kolkata.
We were in a huge shopping mall (South City Mall), and wanted some lunch. The method of payment is a very sensible, and certainly very hygenic.
NO MONEY changes hands in the food court. At the entrance-one has to buy a "purchase card" - we gave over R500, and a swipe-card was loaded with that amount. Then, at each food counter , one hands over the card for payment, and the amount is swiped, and deducted from the card.
( I suppose it works on the similar system to a mini-credit card)
After eating, we handed back the card on exiting, and we got the refund of R40 back.
This probably is a system used in other malls- but for us it was a first,and we thought it was a brilliant idea.Handling money passes germs, especially where food is involved!
I have not even seen it here in Australia- but stand corrected if I am mistaken.
A few days prior to the wedding the "Haldi (applying of Turmaric/Sandal paste) dastoor" ceremony starts. It consists of the application of turmeric and sandalwood paste to the bride and the groom who cannot leave the house once the Haldi is applied.. This ceremony continues until the day of the wedding. "Mehfils" are an integral part of every Rajasthani wedding. 'Ladies' mehfils as well as 'gents' mehfils are organised.
One very important ritual among Marwari community is Mehandi( Henna) Ceremony. Mehndi forms an integral part of each and every Marwari ceremony. It is said the longer the colour of the Mehnadi lasts the Bride will get more deep love, respect from Husband & her family.
The traditional dance-'ghoomar' is performed in the ladies mehfil, while men have their own parties. The "Janeu" (sacred thread ceremony) is performed a day before the wedding. The custom of Palla Dastoor is typical to the Marwaris. On the day of the wedding or a day prior to it, the groom's family brings the Palla Dastoor to the bride's house. It consists of clothes, jewellery and gifts from the groom, which the bride has to wear during the wedding ceremony. A Marwari "barat", consisting male& female members, which proceeds to the wedding grounds. Dance is an integral part of a Marwari Barat.
As soon as the "Barat" reaches the bride's house the groom is taken to the ladies section where the bride's mother receives the groom with the traditional "aarti" and he is then taken to the "mandap". The Bride is brought to the mandap by the maternal uncle dressed in traditional marwari costum, which is sent to her by the groom's parents. The "kanyadan " ceremony is then performed by parents wherein the bride is given to the groom for life. "Saat Phreras" are taken round the scared fire while the pundit chants mantras.
Recently we had the opportunity to attend marriage of Marwari community in Kolkata. Marwaris have very close connection with Kolkata & Bengal, having settled in Bengal from Marwar( Rajasthan) duruing 14th to 16th Century ( Mughal Period). They have contributed a remarkable contribution in developing Bengal's economy. The Nivetia family of Kolkata headed by Mr.Oma Shankar Nevetia ( A handsome well educated gentleman) , migrated to Kolkata after graduatation from Punjab university in 1959. Then later other members of the family followed. They now have sprawling business of Clearing & Forwarding agency, transportation etc. The Bride, Riddhi is the daughter of Mr. Umakant Nivetia & Mrs. Saroj Nivetia and the Groom, Vijendra, is son of Mr.Bishwanathji Kedia & Mrs. Chandadevi Kedia. The bride, Riddhi is niece of Mr. Oma Shankar Nivetia.
Marriage in Rajasthani community is just as elaborate as any big affair. Traditions and customs form an important part of all Marwari weddings. The most important factor is that match is fixed and marriages are held only within the community, after veryfying the Gotras( both have to be from different gotras as Hindus consider boys & girls from same Gotras as brother & sister)
The engagement ceremony or the "Sagai" takes place at the house of the groom. This is strictly all male affairs. On this day, the bride's brother puts "tilak" on the groom's forehead. A sword, clothes, sweets etc. are given to the groom. "Ganapati Sthapna" and "Grih Shanti" is the second-most important ceremony performed a few days prior to the wedding. An idol of Lord Ganapati is installed and a "havan" is performed. This sthapana is important as all ceremonies commence only after this.
They have been performing Kumari Puja since 1610, from the day they started Durga Puja.
Goddess Durga arrives to her earthly abode with her four children, Laskhmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh. We worship her as the Goddess of Shakti who overpowered the evil to establish peace and prosperity on earth. She is also the daughter making her yearly visits at her parents place along with her children for four days. The Goddess is worshipped in various forms during her stay here. One of those forms is the "Kumari", the
Virgin form. This mould is the most powerful form of Mahashakti. A girl aged between one to sixteen, symbolising the Kumari form of Devi is worshipped in front of the idol of Goddess Durga. The Kumari form of the Goddess was emphasised as the most dynamic form by the devotees since yester years as Kumari Shakti is the basis of all creations. Our scriptures have emphasised Kumari Puja particularly to evolve the purity and divinity of the women of the society. Diminishing the larger than life stature of the Goddess to someone much nearer and closer is the real reason for this form of worship. Sri RamKrishna had said that Kumari is another form of Devi Durga and he himself worshipped Sarada Ma as Kumari. To imagine the Goddess in the mould of a Kumari is an age old concept. In Mahabharata Arjuna had performed Kumari Puja. The Puranas mention the Kumari form of Chandika.
Selection of Kumar:The scriptures mention the great care with which the Kumari is selected to be worshipped as the earthly representative of Devi Durga. The qualities required in the girl has to match the dynamism, purity and serenity of the Goddess. A calm, serene and an unmarried girl with a bright disposition
between one to sixteen years, who has not yet reached her puberty and is bereft of desire, worldly pleasures and anger is the right requisite for the Kumari Puja. Depending on the age of the girls they are worshipped in the various forms of the Goddess.
The area around the Howrah Bridge is home to a few sacred ghats known as Fairlie Ghat, Babu Ghat and Nimtala Ghat. Each morning and evening, devotees bathe and make offerings at the ghats along the Hooghly River.
Well recently again I visited the Sabarna's at their Behala house again. Now I am in constant touch with their heir Mr.Devarshi Roy Choudhary and we do interact often. Mr. Roy Choudhury is a teacher by profession. For who do not know, in the yesteryear when the British seized power from the Mughals by tricking lot of greedy Indians assisted them, without knowing the consequences for the next 300 years. The British rewarded them by making landlords, Princes, even kings without proper bloodline. With wealth and with the backing of the British they started soponsoring various religious activities such as Durga Puja. While lot of pomp was there in their pujas, the people with genuine royal Bloodline never really went into oblivion. As the founder members of Roy Choudhary family were of Saintly character, despite being Zamindars, they too organised several festivals in their fold. This Durga Puja of their family is about 400 -years old, started in 1610 and being continued till date.
Saraswati Puja or the worship Godess of learning is a great affair in Bengal. It is mostly celebrated by the students and young boys and girls. Saraswati Puja is organised in almost all pace of learning or associated with learning. This is also the begining of Spring festival. Though it is one day festival but people carry forward it to 2/3 days. It is also called "Basant Panchami". It is celebrated normally in the Month of february or end january as per Hindu Calender.
During saraswati puja, the students dress in colourful attaire ( girls wear Sari & Boys Kurta Pajama than their popular dress like Jeans and T shirt) and throng at their school, observe fast, worship the Goddess with Vedic Mantras, worship their books and the toddlers also are Christened to the Devi,for going to the School for the first time.
They also organise Common feast at their school. Recently it has also emerged as Valentine's Day of Bengal.
Page on Kolkata defenitely requires an introduction to our customs and practices. While Bengali marriage no different than the other Hindu marriages of India, but all the rituals and customs are observed in a different style. May be this is called Bengali style. Where all rituals are based on Vedic style and ritual, as also in other parts of India, it is slighltly different in nature all parts of India. Each adding different flavour to their own style and local customs. But the main rituals remain as per Vedic principles.
We experienced this Bengali marriage recently. The Bride is Vidisha and the Groom is my colleague Rajiv Banerjee.
One of the greatest advantages of Calcutta is that it is a city which can welcome people from any corner of the world. Calcutta is a city with a large heart which gives generously to the people who have the ability to understand its joys and agonies. You need to interact with a lot of people and spend quite sometime in the city to understand this. This 'cultural capital of India' has not lost its heart and its softer qualities in its course of developing into one of the premier metropolitan cities in this part of the world.
Speak to people softly and woth a smile and see the kingly treatment you get! This definitely makes a difference!
On the festival of Durga Puja 2003 (1st oct - 5th oct) :
Check out the following site on 25th sep '03 for "Mahalaya"
On Tourism :
On Festivals :
Think, if you guys love to see and experience their culture, you may found easyly there meanwhile I wasnt have much luck to get bump into their some occasion or event. Sad huh! but I tent to come back maybe to learn yoga at rishikesh.
And the picture shown is at 'Om beach' they called it Om because the beach feature just happend to be one of their religion symbol. the look of 'w'.
For a relatively different kind of experience one should visit calcutta during the PUJAS which is generally during sept'end and oct'. This is our biggest festival which goes on for 4-5 days.