The Bengali bastion of Chittaranjan Park comes alive for Basant Panchami with beautiful Saraswati Dolls of all sizes. Kul, kanthali kola, jackfruits, drumstick flowers, shank alu and more… Basant Panchami marks the coming of the Basant Ritu and is celebrated across India. At one point of time people used to herald it by wearing yellow clothes. In Bengal it also marks the day for Saraswati Puja. The C R Park Market II, my favourite haunt for the unusual is packed with a whole lot of traditional items.
After getting the dates correct through Anindo Banerjee ex ABP with whom I have worked a lot, I trudge to C R Park Market I to pick up Nalen gur (khajur or palm gur) and shoot the buzzing market stocked with traditional “Puja” item, only to be told to come the next day when the market would be full. And it is full. There are batashas made of nalen gur, til ladoos, aam papads, drumstick flowers. Yes, drumstick flowers, I am told it is used to make delicious pakoras. There is nalen gur in abundance as also the syrup. What though stands out is the serene idols of Ma Saraswati, pristine in white with a calm expression, holding her veena perched on a swan. In true artistic style each protima is beautifully made and decked in clothes and jewellery. Kul traditional ber nice ripe red, there is delicious tiny bananas called kanthali kola similar to the ones got in Bangalore and Virupakshi from Pollachi. Green coconut with stalks, ink pot and pen (quills from bamboo). The vegetable selection is nice and fresh, straight from Kolkata I am told. There are small jackfruits, small cute petas, wonderful green aubergines or brinjals, small karelas or bitter gourd, the range of poi shaak. The camera goes clicking furiously. Shopkeepers smile indulgently. There are decorations made from sholapith, the host of puja saman. The alu I am told is eaten raw with addition of salt. The Puja happens in quite a few places in C R Park. The Shiv Mandir puja and that at Raisina School in the morning till afternoon is blissfully divine. Saraswati puja is when students, artists pray for her Divine blessings in the pursuit of knowledge. I do so by offering Nalen gur payash!
(I start writing again after a longish spell in the hope that the Divine too blesses this journey. My mom is there as it also happens to be her Birthday)