Taherpur Durga Puja – A Great Expectation

According to Hindu mythology, King Suratha and Samadhi Vaishya lost their kingdom and family and took refuge in Medhas Muni’s ashram and performed Durga Puja on his advice and regained their kingdom and family with the blessings of Goddess Durga. It is said that the ashram of Medhas Muni was located in the middle forest of West Bengal (now Durgapur in West Bengal’s West Burdwan district) and King Suratha and Samadhi Vaishya performed Durga Puja there. According to experts, it was the world’s first Durga Puja (Vasanti Durga Puja) held in spring. Besides, in the story of Krittivasi Ramayana, Ramachandra went to Lanka (Sri Lanka) to rescue Sita Devi and performed the puja (Akal Bodhana) of the mother there in autumn to kill Ravana. But there is no reason to see these two ancient stories as the only reason why Durgotsava is celebrated as the biggest religious festival of Bengali Hindus in the present world. Sanatan Durga Puja, which has gradually become the festival of life of Bengali Hindus today, was started by a zamindar of our land, Raja Kangsanarayan.

Raja Kangsanarayan Roy’s zamindari was located in Taherpur (formerly known as Tahirpur) municipality under Bagmara Upazila of Rajshahi District, Bangladesh. The Taherpur dynasty is one of the oldest dynasties of Bengal. The most successful zamindar of this dynasty was Raja Kangsanarayan Roy. He played an outstanding role in suppressing Mughals in Chattagram during the Sultanate period. During the Pathan period he also performed the duties of Fajdar with skill. Later, during the Mughal period, he was entrusted with the responsibility of being the temporary Dewan of Bengal-Bihar for some time. During this time he was awarded the title of ‘Raja’ for his skill. When Bengal was largely under the control of the Mughals, Emperor Akbar appointed Raja Kangsanarayan as Dewan of Sube Bengal. But being old enough, he gave up the duties of Dewan and returned to Taherpur to focus on religious and social work. At that time he vowed to perform a great sacrifice in order to remain eternally alive in the minds of the people of Sanatan Hindu society and he sought the opinion of all the Brahmin scholars of his pargana in this regard. On hearing the king’s determination, Ramesh Shastri, a famous scholar of the time, advised Kangsanarayan to perform only Durgotsava to fulfill his desire. Pandit Ramesh Shastri, referring to various provisions of Hindu scriptures, said that there is no Maha Yajna suitable in this era, except Durgotsava. This yajna can be performed by people of all nationalities in all eras and in one yajna all yajnas get results. All the scholars present in the royal court supported Ramesh Shastri’s opinion at that time. Following the advice of all learned people, Kangsanarayan performed Durga Puja in the month of Ashwin of Bengali 887 following the Akal Bodhana of Lord Ramachandra. Since then, Sharadia (autumnal) Durga Puja has spread all over Indian Sub-continent. It is said that King Kangsanarayan introduced the modern Sharadia Durgotsava at a cost of then nine lakh rupees. At present, we can estimate how much that calculation can be in terms of money. The grand festival of King Kangsanarayan was held at the Durga temple in Ramrama village on the eastern bank of Barnai river. Even today, the same method is followed in Bengal’s Sarvajaneen(universal) Durga Puja Festival.

The Durga temple of Raja Kangsanarayan is no longer there. According to local sources, the new temple of Rajbari was later established by his successors and Durgotsava was celebrated there for a long time. After the end of zamindari rule in Bengal, the Durga Puja of Taherpur Rajbari also stopped. However, with the cooperation of the present government of Bangladesh, Durgotsava has been started there again with the initiative of the respected members of parliament and local dignitaries. In 2018, unique metal idols were installed in the temple. These initiatives are undoubtedly commendable. However, one of our great expectations for this origin of modern Durgotsava is to bring its recognition to the world. Many may know that from December 13 to 18 last year, the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO was held in Paris, the capital of France. In the same session, this branch organization of the United Nations added the ‘Kolkata Durga Puja’ to the list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.

In order to encourage the Durga Puja organizers in our neighboring West Bengal, various initiatives including selection of ‘Best Puja’, ‘Best Theme’, ‘Best Pandal’ are taken there. After the puja, a special program is organized on the red road of Kolkata with several idols selected by the government. Chief Minister of West Bengal, State Ministers, MPs, MLAs and prominent people of Kolkata are present here. Foreign guests are also present, from artists, writers, cultural activists to political figures. Thus the state is becoming economically prosperous every year by highlighting culture like Durga Puja. The Durga Puja of Kolkata and West Bengal may deserve a special recognition in terms of numerology or financial expenditure, but everyone will agree that Taherpur Durga Puja is the origin of the autumnal Durga Puja Festival celebrated every year in about lakhs of temples throughout the world. I hope that the present democratic government, concerned authorities and the conscious people of our country will do whatever they can do to ensure that the Durga Puja of Taherpur gets UNESCO heritage recognition as the origin of Durga Puja Festival.

Collected by
Krishna Das


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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