200-year old tradition of Durga Puja at Netaji’s ancestral home

A cousin of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Dwarka Nath Bose, talks of the tradition, Netaji’s visits and the much awaited family reunions during this time of the year

Photo courtesy: Tunir Biswas
Photo courtesy: Tunir Biswas

Tunir Biswas

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s ancestral house in Kodalia ( South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal) was granted heritage status in 2013 by the West Bengal Government. Renovation of the house is still going on though.

The house has been hosting a Durga Puja for the past 200 years. The occasion serves as a reunion for many family members who assemble here during the Puja from different parts of the country and abroad.

The house in a locality called simply as Bosepara- the corner where Bose family lived. Bosepara is also home to two neighbouring pujas. One in a small cottage with a roof made of hay. The other in an enclosure within the house called Thakur Dalan, which can be roughly translated as a courtyard for the God.

On a visit this year on Ashtami, this writer happened to stumble on one of Netaji’s many relatives, Professor D.N Bose, who had taught at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Excerpts from our conversation:

Photo courtesy: Tunir Biswas
Photo courtesy: Tunir Biswas
Durga Puja at Netaji’s ancestral house

How are you related to Netaji?

Well, I have been a Professor and I am the son of Dr Sunil Chandra Bose, elder brother of Subhash Chandra Bose.

Since when is this Puja being held?

This Puja is about 200 years old. The house and the Thakur Dalan were built by the grandfather of Subhash Chandra Bose, Sri Haranath Bose. You'll find a gate here that's called Haranath Lodge, which is named after him. This Durga Puja was revived after Janakinath's marriage in the 1880s to Prabhabati Dutt, who took great care of it. Janakinath moved to Cuttack where he garnered recognition as a lawyer and loyal government leader. Every year, he used to come here and spend a couple of months, ending with Durga Puja and he used to bring gifts for all the local villagers.

During the puja, all the villagers would come here to partake of the Prasad, enjoy the Bhog and the feasting. I have been coming here since 1942 when I was about four years old. Whenever I have been in Calcutta I have been coming here.

In between, I did my PhD in England and then I was in the US for some years, then I taught in Bangalore at the Institute of Science, so during then, I couldn't come.

One of my earliest memories is in 1943 when my grandmother Prabhabati Devi passed away and we had Ashouch as you call it. The whole family couldn't come here. But I was so interested in coming that it became a habit. I came with my driver by train. I was in fact the only member of the family who came that year and we couldn’t do the Puja as my grandmother had passed away.

The library here is ‘Haranath Binapani Library' set up by Janakinath in the memory of his father. It's a very nice library. I used to spend all my time reading Bengali journals and books in my younger days.

What makes you to return every year?

Durga Puja tradition is in built-in most Bengalis and this is the biggest festival here. It's now organised by two nephews Supriyo and Chitropriyo. But I am involved as well. It's time for family reunion. I have a cousin coming from Bombay; I have nieces coming from Delhi. We have a big family reunion. After Bijoya, we have reunions in Kolkata as well.

Photo courtesy: Tunir Biswas
Photo courtesy: Tunir Biswas
Dwarka Nath Bose

Did Netaji ever attend the Puja here?

In the twenties of last century, there were some revolutionary groups active in Kodalia. In Netaji’s diary, it was found that he would visit this place during the Puja and meet revolutionaries here. Kodalia is the home of the renowned revolutionary leader M.N. Roy born as Narendra Nath Bhattacharya; Sivanath Sastri was also born in the same village.

Kodalia and Harinavi have a long history. That was the time when Subhash Bose was a very active member of the Congress party. We had a lot of property around Kodalia especially in Malancha, bought by Janakinath. Whenever he used to come here he used to come here with all his nephews and there was a big water body, a big pond around here. Subhash was so full of energy he used to jump into the pond and swim from side to side. He used to take his nephew who couldn't swim with him as well. He used to ask him to climb on his back. He was very fond of local food as well. Full of life, ‘Joie de vivre' as you call it.

This ancestral house appears to have renovated in recent years…

This house was in a poor state and one of the roofs had collapsed. Major repairs were needed. So, we got in touch with the government and the archaeological society of West Bengal, we are still in touch with them daily.

It is a heritage property so the repair has been done exactly according to the original look and plans, from the tiles to everything. It's almost completed now; they've put in a couple of toilets. We get a lot of visitors especially on the 23rd of January; there are hundreds of people coming. The upper room was the bedroom of Jankainath and Prabhabati. It has been decorated with photographs of Netaji. That'll be ready in a few weeks, and then they'll take up on this Thakur Dalan.