Darjeeling, Sept. 21: A hundred years ago, two steam engines attached to a toy train had chugged up the mountains carrying an idol of Goddess Durga for the puja at Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu Hall.
On October 4, the hall will enter its hundredth year of Durga Puja as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways will carry Ma Durga from Darjeeling to Bangla Khola, at Rangbull, on her last journey.
“The Durga Puja was held at the Nripendra Narayan Bengali Hindu Hall for the first time in 1915. As part of the centenary celebrations, we have decided to charter the DHR for the immersion,” said Pratapaditya Guha, secretary of the puja committee.
The puja is popularly known as the “Bengali Puja” here.
The hall at Chandmari was built in 1890. Its has a temple modelled on the famous Jagannath temple in Puri and a monolithic statue of Narayan. It is also known as Gopal Mandir.
“In 1915, the idol was brought from Krishnagar. It was ferried by a boat across the Farakka barrage and then brought to Darjeeling from Siliguri by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. This year, we are getting the idol from Kumartuli in Calcutta,” said Raju Biswas, another secretary.
The hall has always seen the traditional ekchala idol where Goddess Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Karthik are part of the same structure.
“Since the Maharaja of Cooch Behar had donated money to build the hall and also played a pivotal role in bringing in contributions, the place was named after him, Nripendra Narayan. During birsarjan (immersion), the idol used to be taken to Burdwan Maharaja’s palace at Rajbari (in Darjeeling). It is said, the rajmata used to put a gold coin on the idol (before the last journey),” Guha said.
Earlier, the idols were immersed at Kakjhora. From 1985, they are being taken to Rangbull, 16km from here.
The family members of the Maharaja of Burdwan still come here on Asthami.
The hall was gutted in a fire in April 1906 and was rebuild under M.N. Banerjee, a government pleader from here.
“Dhakis used to come from Malda. Normally, we have six-seven dhakis but for this year, we will be getting 21,” said Saibal Chakraborty, a secretary.
Shows would be held at Chowrasta from Mahalaya (September 23).
“Darjeeling-based groups like Parakeet Melody, and singers of reality shows would perform,” said Chakraborty.
From September 29, shows would be held at the hall.