BONGAIGAON, Oct 20 - With a red-cloth bag slinging by his shoulder, Bhanu Sankar Chaudhury, the president of the local puja committee, was busy collecting donations from the local residents at the committee�s office besides looking after other works of the pandal.
Chaudhury, amid his tight schedule, was happy to share the history of the Durga puja at Sidli, which was once a royal state of Koch-Rajbongshi dynasty. Now Sidli area falls in Chirang district. Here, the Durga puja started in the 13th century by the royal dynasty of Koch-Rajbongshi and was later handed down to its subjects in the 19th century.
The last Koch-Rajbongshi king Bishnu Narayan Deb of Sidli State shifted his capital to Bishnupur (present Bidyapur in Bongaigaon district) from Nomalpur (in Chirang district), and since then the festival has been celebrated by the local residents of the present Sidli area, which comprises the hamlets of Nomalpur, Nimagaon and Rajajan cohabited by Koch-Rajbongshi, Adivasi and Bodo people, with their own contributions, Chaudhury said.
Earlier during this festival, people from Bhutan came to the puja site and took food items such as puffed rice and beaten rice from the local residents of Sidli area in exchange of materials native to Bhutan. But with the passage of time, this barter practice no more exists, said Chaudhury.
The puja pandal was made with wild grass and hay and decorated with banana plantains and local artists made Goddess Durga�s idol by clay in the beginning. Now the pandal is permanently constructed with tin-roof, wood and cement and idol is bought from shops, said Ranu Sankar Chaudhury, village headman of Sidli.
The kings sacrificed buffalo and other animals on the day of Ashtami, but the practice died when the people took over the puja from the royal dynasty, said Kusumbar Chaudhury, a local resident of Sidli area.
On the day of Bijoya Dasami, Santhal (Adivasi) devotees come to perform their traditional ritual (Dassai Nritya) at the puja pandal and showcase their cultural dance, said Uttam Barman. Only �Rangila gaan�, a folk item, which is performed by local artistes, convey the mythical and royal message of the puja amidst a chain of transition, said Dhiraj Baruah, the secretary of the puja committee.
The new generation of the locality has added a new event � Ravan badh (symbolic killing of Ravana) � on Dusshera to this puja few years ago, Baruah said.