In the heart of Bengal, a unique celebration, Durga Puja, transcends boundaries of religion, caste, and creed. This unparalleled religious festivity, now granted the prestigious UNESCO intangible heritage tag, has been inspiring generations since immemorial. Beneath the layers of tradition and grandeur, there’s a lesser-known fact: Durga Puja’s transformation from elite privilege to a celebration for all was initiated by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
The Essence of Durga Puja
Durga Puja is renowned for commemorating the victory of feminine power over evil, symbolized by the goddess Durga. It’s a profound homage to the strength and courage of women, encapsulated in the form of the Divine Mother. Beyond the religious aspect, Durga Puja has played a pivotal role in bridging the gaps in our society – transcending barriers of religion, caste, creed, spiritual rituals, and opinions over centuries.
The Rise of the Urban Elite: The Birth of Durga Puja
As British administrators took charge, a wealthy urban elite class, known as the “Babu,” emerged, mainly in Kolkata. Eager to distinguish themselves, they introduced something extraordinary into society. Durga Puja was their chosen medium. The oldest mention of a Durga Puja in Kolkata dates back to 1610 when the Savarna Chowdhury family began their puja.
Netaji’s Vision: Sarbojonin Durga Puja
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was a visionary. He recognized the urgent need for unity among religious communities during India’s freedom movement. At this juncture, he introduced a groundbreaking idea: Barwari or Sarbojonin Durga Puja. “Sarbojonin” translates to “for all in society.” It was a call for unity, transcending the boundaries that divided people.
Durga Puja: A Meeting Point for Freedom Fighters
Durga Puja became a vital platform for the younger freedom fighters to unite. It was a remarkable meeting point where they could interact and strengthen their resolve. Netaji’s innovative approach to Durga Puja transformed a traditional festival and played a crucial role in India’s struggle for independence. It was a small step towards a united India, a vision that eventually became a reality.
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