Nadia is the place to go for banana sellers of Bihar and Jharkhand who are frequenting Habibpur village for the past one-and-half weeks to buy truckloads of a special variety of the fruit, needed for Chhat Puja. Habibpur has one of the biggest banana markets in eastern India, where champa bananas, the variety required for Chhat Puja, is available in abundance. Chhat is the biggest festival of the natives of Bihar, Jharkhand and other Hindi speaking communities of east India. Natives of those states living in Calcutta and West Bengal also observe this festival in a big way. An essential part of the rituals includes bathing in the river early in the morning and offering an entire bunch of bananas to the Sun God. This variety of bananas is widely grown by farmers of Habibpur and other villages of Nadia for the last two decades.
Habibpur banana market, off National Highway 34, has come up in the last five years. There are banana markets in Ranaghat, Therpur, Gobindapur and Krishnanagar, but they sell all kinds of bananas through the year. Habibpur’s banana market is exclusive for champa bananas and the selling starts from at least a fortnight before Chhat Puja. Most devotees prefer to buy champa kala as it is cheap and is easily available at the time of the festival.
“I have been visiting Habibpur banana market to buy champa kala for Chhat Puja for the last 10 years. Because the quality of banana is good and cheap too,” said Sanjay Yadav, a wholesale trader from Patna.
A stalk of bananas that contains 12 to 14 dozens is sold in Habibpur market at Rs 300 each and ones with 10 hands is sold for anything between Rs150 to 250. Everyday 10 to 15 truckloads of bananas are leaving the market for different districts of Bihar and Jharkhand and also Calcutta and other north-eastern states where there is a good number of Biharis.
“A fortnight before Chhat Puja we are busy loading and unloading bananas through the day. We do not even have the time to eat or bathe,” said Sanjit Sarkar, a wholesale banana trader of Habibpur. He said that even hotels and restaurants along National Highway 34 do brisk business during this time.
Agricultural land in Debipur, Buddhadeb Ghoshpara, Nagpara, Duarpara, Tarapur, Jaypur, Bilpara, Raghabpur, Tehatta, Karimpur and Krishnanagar areas are fertile and are suitable for banana cultivation. “I cultivated Champa bananas on four bighas this year and earned a hefty Rs 80,000. For the last 10 years I have done good business by cultivating banana on my land,” said Achintya Roy, a farmer of Karimpur.