Sribati, a small village near Katwa in Burdwan, dotted with picturesque terracotta temples, was also the seat of the Chandra family who were primarily salt merchants who moved from Gujarat to Bengal and settled here. They excelled in trade and soon became the zamindars of the area. Although the dynasty’s glory ended early, Sribati remains a beautiful village adorned by the unique terracotta temples, built by the Chandra ancestors who dedicated these to Shiva.
The old house, still remains, although in poor condition, but members of the family who have scattered around the country, do visit the ancestral home during festivals. Puja and festivals were the order of the day during the zamindar’s rule and almost every puja was held in Sribati, namely Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, Annapurna and Jagaddhatri. The entire family would participate jointly in every puja at the house. However, as family feuds started growing, the elders decided to draw a lottery to decide which of the deities would be worshipped by each family. While Durga, Kali, Annapurna and Jagaddhatri went to the others, Lakshmi came to Sushanta Chandra’s family. The family is like the been serving Lakshmi ever since Sushanta’s great grandfather had picked the paper written Lakshmi on it, the family has accepted this responsibility. The family has been organising Kojagori Lakshmi Puja at the temple dedicated to the goddess at their ancestral home in Katwa.
The present head of the family, Sushanta Chandra, is a successful businessman and social worker, who strongly believes that it is with the blessing of Ma Lakshmi and exceptional entrepreneurship skills of his grandfather that the family business has flourished. “My great grandfather got the responsibility of Lakshmi puja in a lottery and even today we believe that she is looking after us. So there is no denying the fact that we have been blessed by Lakshmi. Both my sons are looking after our business. Despite our busy schedules, we must take time out to go to our village home and perform Lakshmi Puja,” said Sushanta Chandra, presently the head of the family.
The rituals are old and time-tested. On Lakshmi Puja, a procession sets out from the house where the women of the family carry the Shanti ghot and the men, along with the family priest, carry the Mangal ghot. After 500 yards, the procession splits and they go to different ghats of the holy pond. The ghots (copper pitchers) are filled with water and are brought back to the Lakshmi temple in the same way.
The family deity, Ramraghunath, is taken to the Lakshmi temple and placed next to the goddess. “The family deity is first worshipped after which Lakshmi puja starts,” said Sushanta. The underprivileged people are fed a sumptuous meal on the day after the puja. Besides serving them bhog, they are given new saris, dhotis and blanket.
Apart from Kojagori puja, other Lakshmi pujas are also performed through the year at the temple. Through the year, the goddess is worshipped every day at the temple. “We have been blessed by Ma Lakshmi. So we always worship her with devotion,” said Sushanta.