Each of you who want to take a break from theme er thakur and traverse down Kolkata’s memory lane during Durga puja now have the option of visiting the city’s centuries-old palaces and zamandarbaris — the haven of our blue-blue blooded families, some of whom were merchants and some rich landlords. The only thing common between these must-visit bastions of luxury is the fact that they all still perform the Durga puja with great aplomb and gaiety and open their gates to the public on this festive occasion.
Three operators who organize these day trips during the pujas are the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC), the Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC) and a private travel agency, which will take you around to see all or some of these pujas, depending on your disposable time and budget. Fascinatingly, each puja has a different story to tell or at least a unique ritual that sets it apart from the rest.
One of the tour operators begins this journey from the house of the Sabarna Roy Choudhurys of Behala Barisha, where the historic agreement took place with Job Charnock in 1698 that gave the British trading rights of Kolkata. The aatchala (eight-pillared courtyard) still exists and so does this heritage puja.
The eight hour bus trip (Dream n fly by Eastern Travels) takes you through the city’s majestic heritage to Rani Rashmoni’s house on S N Banerjee Road, where the Goddess and her family has features like Lord Jagannath of Puri to Dutta Baari (Thanthania), where one gets to see the Goddess Durga relaxing on Mahadev’s lap. “There is no Mahisasur with this idol. Ma Durga seems to be resting after the battle with her husband and children”, says Parthasarathi Biswas, who treats tourists to palace stories at every halt. Pocket pinch: Rs 1880, inclusive of lunch and tea.
The CSTC takes tourists through heritage pujas starting from Belur right upto Barisha on a Volvo Bus from Esplanade on Saptami, Ashtami and Nabami. Food is on the house with an elaborate lunch being served at the Sovabazar Rajbaari. “One offbeat puja covered on this trip is the Baghbazar Halderbaarir pujo where the idol is a two feet Goddess made from Kostipathar. We also take tourists to Belur where the Kumaripuja is famously held on Ashtami morning”, said a spokesperson of CSTC. CSTC takes tourists to Belur, Bagbazar Haldarbaari, Sovabazar Rajbaari, Latubabu, Chatubabu, Rani Rashmoni’r baari, Mukherjeebaari (Behala) , Sonar Durga (Behala), Sabarna Roy Choudhury’s baari in Behala Barisha. Pocket pinch: Rs 1500 (meals included).
The WBTDC also takes visitors to the traditional zamindarbari pujas of Kolkata by air-conditioned as well as ordinary buses. The day trip includes a visit to Khelat Ghosh’s Baari, Sovabazar Raj Baari, Chhatubabu Latubabur Puja, Chandra Baari, Rani Rashmoni Baari, Thanthania Dutta Baari while the noon trip takes you to Khelat Ghosh’s Baari, Sovabazar Raj Baari, Chhatubabu Latubabur Puja, Chandra Baari, Rani Rashmoni Baari and Bagbazar. The cost varies between Rs 825 to Rs 1375.