Aditi Raychoudhury. Bishorjon. 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Bishorjon. 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.

The victory of good over evil as Durga vanquishes Mahisasura in an epic battle, is celebrated as Bijoya or victory. We wear new clothes and visit our friends and family to eat, eat and eat some more of our wonderful delicacies that are specific to the season. However, the joyous Bijoya is not complete without Bishorjon, the act of immersing the clay idols into bodies of life giving water. It’s a day when the streets are lined with people waiting to catch a last glimpse of Ma Durga as she leaves her maternal home amongst us to go back to her home in Mount Kailash.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Bishorjon. 2020. Pencil on tracing paper.

I remember waiting for this poignant moment, eagerly waiting to catch a glimpse of Durga for the very last time as the sounds of cymbals and dhaaks got louder and louder. My heart pounding, “She is coming! She is coming!” And then finally, you see her emerging from round the corner, the majestic statue of Durga flanked by her children, slowly getting larger and larger til she is right in front of us for a brief moment before passing us by as we bid our sad silent goodbyes. Our eyes well up with soft tears, as we assure ourselves, “Aashbey! Maa abate aashbey!” (She will be back again), as the crowd slowly disperses.

Even though, in reality the entire giant statue of Durga and her children are immersed into the river amidst loud clamor, I wanted to capture the intimate moment of gently letting go as a priest cradles Ganesha, one of Durga’s children, before he gently drops him into the water. As we feast for days, even after Durga has left us, Bishorjon is a gentle reminder of learning to letting go. It is a reminder that sadness and happiness are welded together in hope that this short-lived season of celebration as the monsoons ease up and summer gives way to early autumn will be back with festivals in spring and then finally the days of celebration all over India in the early autumn months.. a season for reasons unbeknownst to me has always felt bittersweet – happy for the crisp sun and grand festivals to come and yet sad as the year is definitely coming to an end.

Shubho Mohaloya

Aditi Raychoudhury. Mohaloya. 2018. Watercolor. Gouache. Photoshop.

Ya devi sarva bhuteshu, shakti rupena sangsthita, Namastasyai, namastasyai, namastasyai, namo namaha

[To that Devi Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of Power,
Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations again and again]

Long gone are those days when we would fall into expectant sleep knowing we would be up at the crack of dawn to this chant welcoming the arrival of Goddess Durga who would slay the demon Mahisasura Most Bengalis of my generation and generations before me did this. I am not sure if that still happens – certainly not in my US household and its a travesty. My daughter knows nothing about the uncontrollable excitement over Ma Durga’s arrival (with her children in tow), school closure, and going out every day in brand new clothes to eat delicious bhog with our friends and just soak in the indescribable atmosphere. What a loss for my daughter and everyone who has never experienced it. Here is @sandip.rc capturing my experience in his podcast

Shubho Bijoya

Aditi Raychoudhury. Snagging a Mango. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Snagging a Mango. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Crazy Rickshaw Ride. Watercolors and Gouche on BFK Rives. 2017.

Aditi Raychoudhury. Crazy Rickshaw Ride. Pencil on Tracing Paper. 2017.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Crazy Rickshaw Ride. Pencil on Tracing Paper. 2017.

Maa has returned to her heavenly abode, as did mine, almost 20 years ago.

When we were little, the joy of pujo lay in waking up at the crack of dawn to Birendro Kishore Bhodro’s rendition of Mohaloya broadcast over All India Radio. It lay in the anticipation of more than a week off from school, wearing new clothes, eating bhog, and most of all meeting friends and family.

After I had moved to Delhi, pujo was a time to be with my parents, who had moved to Kolkata by then. Kolkata was a big change from the small town I had grown up in. The pandals of Raurkela were neither as creative as Kolkata, nor were they as crowded. The madness that grips Kolkata during pujo is not something anyone outside of Kolkata can understand or imagine.

This night was pujo’s biggest night – Ashtami. After offering our morning Anjali in the paaraar pandal, we decided not to venture out in the evening.

“Knock, knock, knock!!!” It was Monoronjon, our local rickshaw puller.

Those who are familiar with Kolkata, know that rickshaw pullers are our solution to getting to various modes of an otherwise efficient public transit system. Within every few blocks is a “rickshaw stand” marked only by a huddle of rickshaws. If you live in that neighborhood, you start using the same rickshaw puller to take you places, or to run errands. In our case, that man was Monoronjon.

“Ki Boudi, pujo dekhbeyn naa?” (Brother’s wife, don’t you want to go and see pujo?)
“Naa, eyi bheedeyr moddhey aar beyrotey bhaal laagey naa.” (No, its too crowded to be enjoyable)
“Sheyki??? Oshtomir din, protimaa dekhtey jaabeyn naa. Ey ki kothaa? Cholun. Aajkey keyu baadi boshey neyi. Cholteyi hobey.” (How can that be? Its Ashtami, Pujo’s big night. How can you not want to see Mother Goddess. No one stays home on Ashtami. I will take you through the backlanes. You have to come.)

And, so we did. Through the narrow back lanes of Selimpur to all the pujos in Jodhpur Park, Jadavpur park and even as far as Santoshpur. My sister and I hung on to our mother for dear life as Monoronjon expertly swerved his way through the winding streets and impenetrable crowds. A good three hours later – we were home.

“Eyyi jey, Monoronjon. Eyto ghoraaley. Koto holo?”(you took us around quite a bit. How much?)
“Sheyki baudi? Pujor din. Aami aapnedeyr ghora tey niyey gaychhi. Aapni to amaakey daakeyn ni.” (How can you even ask me that? Its pujo. I asked you to come with me. You didn’t ask me to take you.)
And with that, Monoronjon, our illiterate, dirt-poor rickshaw puller reminded us that pujo is so much more than new clothes, food or commerce. It is about sharing joy.