GUWAHATI, Oct 16 - Perhaps, the Durga Puja celebrated at the Uzan Bazar Ugratara Temple is the oldest of the Durga Puja celebrations in Guwahati city.
Records of celebrations of Durga Puja at this temple have been available since AD 1044 when Kamarupa was ruled by Dharma Pala of the Pala dynasty and Pragjyotishpura was its capital. Pragjyotishpura is the original name of Guwahati.
Ugratara Devalaya is believed to contain the navel part of Sati, which felled here from the shoulder of her infuriated husband Shiva, following her death at the Dakshayajna. Tara is one of the forms of the Durga. A trustee of the Ugratara Devalaya Kailash Sarma told this newspaper here today that the Bardeuris from Sualkuchi, now in Kamrup district, and Digheli, now in Nalbari district, started performing the pujas at this Shakti shrine since the days of Ratnapala in AD 1044 (almost 974 years back).
However, since the Shakti is worshipped here for all the 365 days of a year, special pujas are only offered to the Shakti during the Sukla Saptami, Sukla Asthami and Sukla Navami days of the Durga Puja. On the Saptami and Asthami days, goats, pigeons, ducks, sugar canes and ash gourds are sacrificed to the goddess, while on the Navami day, buffaloes and magur (catfish) species of fish are sacrificed, besides the above five items, at the altar of the goddess, said Sarma.
Bhog, in the form of kichadi and mistanna, are also prepared by the temple authorities and distributed among the devotees on these days, he said.
The Durga Puja at the Kamakhya Temple atop the Nilachal Hillock here is also one of the oldest Durga Pujas in Guwahati. The practice of celebrating Durga Puja at the Kamakhya Temple started in AD 1565 when the renovated temple of the Shakti shrine was inaugurated during the rule of the Koch monarch Naranarayana. Thus, the Durga Puja practice at this temple has now become 453-year-old.
According to Naba Sarma, a senior priest of the temple, the Durga Puja is celebrated at this Shakti shrine with a 15-day programme from the Krishna Navami day to the Sukla Navami day. The daily puja rituals start at this temple with the crack of dawn. During the Navaratra period starting from the Sukla Pratipada day and lasting till the Sukla Navami day, Kumari Puja is performed at this temple.
During this period, buffalo sacrifices are also made at the altar of the goddess by the devotees as part of their offering obeisance to the Goddess Durga.
According to a write-up prepared by Bhaben Bez, an executive member of the Uzan Bazar Barowari Puja Mandap Samiti, the Durga Puja celebrations at Uzan Bazar Barowari is now 129-year-old. It initially started at the Uzan Bazar Rajbari in AD 1829 during the time of Ahom prince Ghanakanta Singha and in AD 1923, its venue was shifted to a place near the present site of Kumar Bhaskar Natya Mandir at the initiative of some leading citizens of Uzan Bazar. In 1934, its venue was again shifted to its present site at Uzan Bazar Barowari.
At Barowari, the clay Durga idols were initially shaped by Dimba Bardoloi and Purna Hazarika of Uzan Bazar. At present, the Durga idols of Barowari are shaped by Dulal Pal of Kalapahar Colony.
Durga Puja celebrations at Sanatan Dharmasabha (Hari Sabha) on Pan Bazar Sarat Chandra Goswami Road started in AD 1915. In AD 1918, the family of the Barnagar Mouzadars donated a plot of land to this institution on which it is still situated.