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“Esho Maa Lokkhi, Bosho Ghore…”

“Esho Maa Lokkhi, Bosho Ghore…”

Lakshmi Puja, more popularly known as Lokkhi Pujo in Bengal and the North Eastern States of India, is celebrated with lot of love and grandeur in every Hindu household in the eastern part of the country, irrespective of the dialect they speak. Priyasha Bhattacharjee writes about her love and enthusiasm, her sheer joy and active participation in LokkhiPujo, since a toddler

Pujo, Pujo, Pujo. After the grand Durga Puja celebrations, the fever of Puja is still very much inside our blood and it is present in every Bengali’s heart and soul. The four nights of dhunuchi dance, pandal hopping, changing colorful dresses and matching jewellery, are still so much alive in us.

The taste of chicken mughlai, mutton roll, fish kobiraji and Bengali chops and so on have left everlasting memories. But why are we disappointed? Bengalis are famous for Pujas and Peth Pujas and the thirst is not yet quenched.

Yes, you are right, after the grand harmonious exquisite Durga Puja, we all are set to welcome the Daughter of Ma Durga with equal energy and delight.

Lokkhi Puja (Bengali version of Lakshmi Puja) is celebrated a week after Ma Durga’s sad immersion. After a week of heartache and melancholy, we are all charged up to welcome the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Every Bengali household evening was glorified with loud shonkho, kasha, and the beautiful mesmerizing Rangoli (alpona).

Alpona

Alpona (the floor art) shows the feet of the Goddess, symbolizing her entry into each of the households to bless them with prosperity, peace and harmony. Observing fast the whole day, taking bath in the early morning, wearing clean dress, cleaning the Puja utensils, collecting flowers, cleaning the ghot, arranging the mouth watering sweets,  fruits, the enticing Naru (laddoos), the cut fruits and khoi, the  tempting naibodya and not to forget khichri, labda, chutney and payesh.

For Bengalis, Kojagari Lokkhi Puja is more than a mere religious observance. This has always been more of sticking onto one’s cultural heritage and traditions. This is one of those times, when the cultural attributes of each of the Bengali community is very much on display

Shora or PautIn my grandma’s house, as she was from Dhaka, Maa Lokkhi is worshipped in the form of Shora or Paut. Shora or Paut is a red colored clay disc on which image of Goddess is painted by the artist. These days people have adopted the easier route and idols have replaced the Shora in most of the homes.

I am not religious and neither a ritualistic person. But I do Kojagori Lokkhi Pujo at home purely because of the wonderful essence, the beautiful thought process underlying the tradition and secondly to continue with the cultural heritage and the quest of the cultural identity amidst the melting pot of cosmopolitan culture.

Apart from shora, there is another unique element of the Bengal Lokkhi Pujo or Sapttari. The banana boats are a symbol of trade ships as earlier the people from the eastern region were sea-farers. Ships were loaded with paddy, particularly the Ayush that is harvested during the late monsoon and is a source of economic affluence of the people of this region.

In Kojagori puja, we fill the banana ship with five types of grains, cowrie shells (currencies of old days) and coins. These are symbolic of a good fortune.

Alpona designs are usually floral and are drawn to welcome and invoke the Goddess with Dhaner Chora (ears of husk of paddy lotus) which is associated with Lokkhi Pujo. Traditionally, it is drawn with fingers with rice paste as paint. Now-a-days, this dying art is still being practiced in community puja and grand celebrations.

The Lokkhi Puja mainly starts in the evening with the lady of the house reading the pachali (a beautiful story written in Sanskrit / Bengali). The famous swastika OM is made on a small pot filled with paddy, adorned by five mango leaves, placed atop along with the small cotton towel and betalnut.

BhogThe irresistible moong dal khicchdi in bhog is a must for every Bengali household along with Labda which is made of 7 vegetables. Blowing of conch shells while offering the puja but other musical instrument is a big no for the occasion as Bengalis believe Lokkhi Ma is an epitome of peace and she flees if loud music is played.

The preparation of the puja starts at noon after the lady of the house, be it mother or wife, dons a beautiful taat sari and makes alpona at the threshold of every door with liquid chalk. The traditional approach is to perform the puja on the same Mondop or pandal where Durga puja has been performed.

Mothers wake up early on that particular day to collect Shiuli flowers (Jesmine), Durba(grass tweaks). They fast till evening and cooks variety of dishes for the family and the guests. In full moon day, lunar month of Ashwin, is the festival of Kojagori Lokkhi Puja. This is because Lakshmi Puja is observed later in the year in other part of India or Nepal.

The phrase Ko-Jogori means who is awake. According to the tradition, Goddess Lakshmi descends to earth on the full moon day of Ashwin to observe the action of mortals and asks who is awake. Those who answers her gets divine blessing.

The Puja bhog Prasad holds very integral importance for every generation. The lavish feast that is prepared without onion and garlic and is offered to Goddess Lokkhi. The divine platter of muri moa(laddos made of puffed rice), seasame laddoos, coconut laddoos, payash (kheer), Chana sandesh (cheese sweets) , kheer sandesh are usually part of the feast without which Lokkhi Puja is incomplete. Fulkoluchi, shuji halwa, and cholar daal are additional entities.

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The Prasad

Kulo or Dala is also important to decorate Lokkhi Puja thaal. It is a cane basket containing sindoor, alta, sugandhi perfume, conch shells, bangles, iron bangles, red bangles, red abir, oil, turmeric, swastik, pituli, yellow thread, flower , rice, coins. The five grains which are included are rice, yellow mustard seeds, black seasame seeds, paddy grains, wheat or maskhalai.

Madhuporka is also offered to Goddess Lokkhi which is made of honey, milk, ghee and curd. Panchamrita is a mixture of five foods used during puja which is prepared with ghee, jaggary, honey, curd and milk.

Apart from bhog, five types of fruits are offered which usually includes seasonal varieties, except banana. One branch of banana is also needed for the puja. In another brass plate, popped rice with dry dates are offered. Popped rice denotes prosperity.

The pujaIn Agartala or Guwahati, Lokkhi Puja is mandatory in each house, either on big scale or a small one, but it is there. The best part is the distribution of Prasad and the impatient wait to receive the divine Prasad from the neighbourhood.

My logic is why Ma Lokkhi has to come once a year, why can’t she come the entire month – one house one day trip so that the feast could be enjoyed every day one after another. Now it is like galloping everything at once. Lighting lamps and reading panchali is done every Thursday, but the grandeur is exceptional during Kojagori Lokkhi Puja which comes once a year.

 

May Goddess Lakshmi bless us with Peace, Prosperity and Good Health!!

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