Tucked away next to North Campus lies Timarpur — home to several government employees, particularly generations of Bengali families who migrated to Delhi when the capital shifted here from Calcutta in 1911.
While Chittarajan Park, known as mini-Bengal, has lakhs of devotees (and then some), it is the Durga Puja in Timarpur which has more cause for celebration this year. Organised by the Timarpur & Civil Lines Puja Samity, the Puja here is celebrating its 100 years.
The Bengalis here say they have the British to thank for bringing Durga Puja to Delhi.
“My grandfather worked for the British government in Calcutta, and when the capital shifted, we too moved to Delhi. We would go back to Calcutta for Puja every year. My grandfather would take a month’s leave, and so did other Bengalis. The British couldn’t afford to have a majority of their staff gone for a month, and that too at the same time. So they encouraged us to celebrate Durga Puja here,” 59-year-old Samit Brahmo, vice-president of the Samity, says.
It started out as a small-scale celebration, a ghoroa (homely affair) of probashi Bengalis (Bengalis living outside Bengal).
“In those days, one person would provide the space for the puja, another would cook the food and a third person would organise programmes,” samity member Anand Shankar Sengupta says.
“I came to Timarpur with my parents in 1924. The elders prepared for the event four-five months in advance — drama and dance rehearsals were held in different places and the children would gather at the residence of Indu Bowmick, where the idol was always made. When I turned 10, I was given the honour of serving the mother goddess,” 93-year-old Heramba Mukherjee recalls.
One of the major attractions of the Puja during the ‘30s was the screening of Bengali movies.
“People didn’t have TVs and there was no way to watch Bengali movies in Delhi. So, the samity would screen the most popular Bengali movies of that time over two days of the festival. We would hire a guy who would bring the film reels and a 35mm projector to the pandal on a ‘phat-phat’ auto. Others brought home-cooked biryani and traditional Bengali food and we would watch movies till 4 in the morning,” Mukherjee says.
The screening stopped in the mid-’80s