Durga Puja in the 1930s: when theater, music and the chess competition were played in Patna


From dramatic performances near the iconic Golghar to a chess competition at a city school, Durga Puja in the 1930s era in Patna was a cultural affair to romance, far different from the social environment that exists today. in the capital of Bihar.

While many elders still remember the twilight-to-dawn musical evenings on the streets of the 1960s and early 1970s, memories of the colonial-era puja festivities have all but faded. .

However, rare personal records associated with the legendary Quila House in the city of Patna, help to provide insight into the Puja festivities of the pre-independence era.

Aditya Jalan, 43, the current descendant of the Jalan family, came across some festive letterboxes and greeting cards that were sent to her great-grandfather Radha Krishna Jalan, a businessman and a well-known personality. known in its time.

“We have found some of the very rare 1936 Durga Puja greetings sent by the Zamindar families of Ammawan and Ranka (now in the Palamu district in Jharkhand), as well as by Maharaja Sir Mohan Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, who was the Prime Minister of Nepal from 1948 to 1951. The interesting part is that all three cards have a similar look, feel and design, ”he told PTI.

The Ammawan family card, which bears the Ammawan Raj (in Gaya district) crest on the front cover, was printed by Thacker, Spink, and Company of Calcutta.

“All three cards have a beautiful image of Maa Durga slaying the demon Mahisasur, and other deities, as could be seen in a pandal, with a Durga Stuti printed underneath. Ranka’s Raja card also has an image of Ram -Sita Durbar. All three cards have the greetings ‘Shubh Vijaya’ Dusshera on the cover in a very aesthetic font. It is priceless and tells us how people celebrated around that time, “said the proud Jalan. owner of the collection.

He said there were also a few cards from the famous Darbhanga Raj family, and one from the 1930s even has a photograph of the iconic Vishwavilas Palace, popularly known as Bela Palace, which currently houses the center of Darbhanga postal formation, printed inside.

Dusshera greetings are printed in English on the right side of the card inside.

Patna-born Jalan, also an avid archivist, remembers Puja as a child, when the sprawling campus of the iconic, over a century-old Quila House was rented by his family to various committees for cultural events .

“But, look at how people celebrated Puja in the 1930s and maybe decades closer to it. There have been theatrical performances and sporting and musical events and these documents kind of help us imagine Patna from that time too, because little visual documentation of the city is publicly available, ”he said.

An October 1936 invitation card issued by The Friends’ Dramatic Association, Bankipur, mentions: “the dramatic performances to be staged on the occasion of Sri Durga Puja at 9:30 pm, near Golghar (Maidan)”.

The three pieces are: “Mashraqi Hur (October 4), Asir-e-Hirs (October 5) and Swami Bhakt (October 6),” the card reads.

Another 1936 Puja invitation card sent to Radha Krishna Jalan, addressing him as Rai Bahadur, by the principal of the Patna School for the Blind, mentions a list of four-day programs, which includes a chess competition, a Gita competition, an “arati” and a music competition. .

An interesting coincidence is that Dusshera in 1936 also fell on October 25, the same date as for 2020, which is experiencing moderate festivities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aditya stated that he also had in his possession an invitation card from October 1936, sent to his great-grandfather, for the opening of the Bharat Mata Mandir in Varanasi on Vijaya Dashmi Day (October 25). It was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi on the Kashi Vidyapith campus.

The city of Patna also had a date with cultural affairs during Durga Puja in the 1960s, when music legends like shehnai player Ustad Bismillah Khan, sitar player Ustad Vilayat Khan, violinist VG Jog , dancer Sitara Devi and a constellation of great singers in the film industry, like Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mahmood and Manna Dey, have delighted the crowd year after year.

Rajiv Soni, 67, based in Calcutta, who grew up in Patna, recalled how the capital of Bihar was a “center of culture” which attracted big stars and “kept them while celebrating culture”.

“In the 60s, when I was a child, I used to go with my parents in our Ambassador car to some of the famous musical gatherings held across the city, from Langertoli to Gardanibagh and from Machchuatoli to Lodipur,” he said. declared to PTI.

Soni, taking a trip down memory lane, said people watched and listened to them with special attention, as “they were spellbound” by the performances which went from late evening until dawn.

“That was the charm and allure of Patna, now it’s all gone, decades of cultural decadence in the city,” he lamented.

His friend and from Patna, Kamal Sahi, 68, remembers the Qawwali performances that were held in the Musallahpur Hat area, and the parties in Langertoli and the area opposite Biscomaun Bhawan, all night long.

Patna resident Asha Prasad, 68, who once attended an event as a child, said: “Huge banners would be put up in the town, the place was well decorated and no one was whistling or whistling. did not behave badly ”.

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