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Restarting the Dharma Thakur Puja at Dharmatala in Kolkata.

Dharma Thakur Puja at Dharmatala

Huge preparation for Dharam Thakur worship at Dharmatala! A five-day congregation of Monks, Saints, Seers and devotees in a fair which will be held in Kolkata heartland in the search of a ‘lost history’.

There are many reasons behind the name of Dharmatala. Among them is the fact that once upon a time Dharma Thakur was worshiped an ancient temple in this area. This time the festival is going to be organized with that as the ‘truth of history’. 

Sunayana Das | HENB | Kolkata | April 10, 2023:: Again the Dharma Thakur will be worshiped at Dharmatala, the heart of Calcutta city in a gathering of saints, seers, monks, and thousands of devotees for five days. The programmes are organized by Margadarshanam, Dharmatala Dharma Thakur Puja Mahotsav Committee, and Bango Kumbha Mela Parishad.

A wonderful revelation was brought in forth by a group of people without any authentic evidence that a few hundred years ago there was a Kumbh Mela in Hooghly’s Triveni! But, there found many references that a holy bath in the Tribeni was held in the past in a big pilgrimage in Magh Sankranti. and that was also interrupted by the Islamic invaders mainly by Zafar Khan Gazi. According to that belief, a Kumbh-like snan (holy dip) was restarted in Triveni in the year 2022. In the row of reverence to the Ganges by common people, that took a big look this year in Tribeni under the sponsorship of Banshberia Municipality. On the other side of the Ganges at Kalyani Majherchar, a new Kumbh festival was also organized with greater grandeur this year by a deviant group from the former. This time, those entrepreneurs are trying to bring back the thousand-year-old ‘tradition’ in Kolkata. On the next Buddhapurnima, Dharma Thakur will be worshiped at Dharmatala in central Kolkata. According to the plan, a big fair will also continue for five days (May 5th-9th, 2023). Apart from that, there will be religious meetings, yajnas, pujas, and nature worship on the occasion of Dharma Thakur Puja.

An organization called ‘Margadarshanam’ was formed a few years ago to find and bring back the ‘lost’ fairs of India. As a part of that Kumbh Mela is now being organized in Bengal. This time the target is the worship of Dharma Thakur at Dharmatala. One of the main organizers is Swami Sarbananda Avadhut Maharaj, General Secretary of the Mahanirvana Math in Calcutta. He said that various religious organizations including Ramakrishna Mission, Bharat Sevashram Sangh, and ISKCON are involved with this initiative. Swami Sarbananda told Anandabazar Online, “We have taken this initiative to awaken the ancient tradition and history of Dharmatala. One day this area was named Dharmatala because of the worship of Dharma Thakur. It will be a five-day event. Begins on Buddhapurnima, ends on Rabindra Jayanti”.


According to the schedule of the organizers, the first day, May 5, will start with the morning processions. Saints will bathe in the Ganga and perform Dharma Puja with Dhwajarohana (installation of Dharma flag). After that, it starts with Vedapath (recitations from Vedas) and will end with cultural programs in the evening. As Dharma Thakur is primarily worshiped by the tribal communities, the festival emphasizes on showcasing the rural folk culture of Bengal. So, chou dance, tribal dance, and poter gaan and baul song sessions will be held on different days at Dharmatala Square. There will be aarti in the evening as there will be arrangements of prasadam every day. It has been decided that the Aarti will be held at Manohardas Tarag (water body), which is next to the Calcutta Press Club and it is believed that once the ancient Dharma Thakur Temple was situated near this big water body and the same water was used in the worship of Dharma Thakur.

All the days will be observed in mostly the same way. But in the evening session, someday Bhajan, someday Kirtan or Gaudiya dance will be performed. As the last day is May 9, which is 25 Baisakh in the Bengali calendar, there will be Rabindra Sangeet and a dance program on that day. In addition to all this, the 72-hour ‘Akhand Yagya’ will continue from the second day of the festival.

Though the festival will be centered around Dharmatala, the main puja will be at the Rajasthan Ground near the Police Camp on the opposite side of Park Street. A total of four fields have been permitted to be used. Shahid Minar premises will also be part of the fair. The permission to use all these fields, which are under the army, has already come to the hands of the organizers. Police permission has also been applied for. Swami Sarbananda said, “Dharma means truth. We want to worship that truth. The truth is all. So not only for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains an all other communities will be requested to join. Eminent people from different sectors of society will also be called.” Explaining Dharma Thakur’s Puja, Swami Sarbananda said, “Sanatan Dharma has spoken of worshiping the earth, water, plants, air, and the sun. And the oldest deity is Dharma Thakur. His symbol is a block of stone, which has no fixed shape.”

Was there really a worship of Dharma Thakur in Dharmatala at one time? Various stories are heard about the naming of this area. One of them is the association of Dharma Thakur with Dharmatala. Dharma Thakur is the deity of the tribals, mainly in the vast region of Bengal. He has no idol. A rugged stone is worshiped by the people of Dom, Bauri, Bagdi, and Poundra communities wearing vermilion and sandalwood. The organizers of Dharma Thakur’s puja in Kolkata claim that the name of this area is Dharmatala from Dharma Thakur’s puja. According to Binay Ghosh, the author of the book ‘History of Kolkata City’, there was a temple of Dharma Thakur in this area long ago. The festival was observed with great enthusiasm and grandeur. On behalf of the organizers, Tusharkanti Chattopadhyay said, “This area was forested then. Bhagirathi River is nearby. Many lower-caste fishermen also lived here. They used to worship Dharma Thakur. Later the British expelled them. As a result, the puja was stopped. We now want to bring back that past tradition”.

In different districts of Bengal, the ritual of worshiping Dharma Thakur by placing stones under banyan trees is seen in rural areas. Puja is performed during Baisakh, Jaishtha and Bhadrapurnima. Mainly local residents participated in those rural festivals. These are not very big festivals but hold local importance. This event is now going to be held at Dharmatala, the heart of Kolkata. It took a year to bring it into the limelight starting with the Kumbh Mela in Triveni. Its popularity has grown so much within two years that this year’s festival has been mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme. But this time, ‘Dharma Thakur Puja’ is organized to bring back the ‘lost’ festival in the city of Kolkata itself. The organizers think that this initiative will get publicity from the first year. From now on, there is a plan to make Dharma Thakur Puja at Dharmatala one of Kolkata’s marked festivals in the coming days.

__With the inputs from Anandabazar Patrika.

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April 2023
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