Malda’s warrior prince

A 250-year-old Kartick Puja in Malda Town is where the crowds throng on the day of the Puja and later for an elaborate fair organised by the local zamindar.

Kartick and his chariot full of other deities at the Roy Bari Puja in Malda
A room filled with offerings at the Roy mansion

Through the ages, Kartick, the handsome warrior prince, whose charms all women, is worshipped by couples seeking a child or a son.  But in Malda Town, the handsome warrior prince becomes the centre of all festivities for four days from  Kartick Puja. From the night of Kartick puja, festivities peak at Malda Town as everyone gears up to visit the Roy family’s Kartick puja where the enormous warrior prince comes with a band of gods and goddesses on his chariot.

Residents of Malda Town and beyond throng the zamindar’s mansion in Phoolbari for this puja that is more than 250 years old. Manmohan Saha, who was also the first elected mayor of English Bazar Municipality in 1947, was the torch-bearer of family traditions and passed the flame on to his six sons.  Quite like what happened in villages in the olden days, a fair would be organized with the zamindar’s festival, so a huge fair that lasts for four days accompanies the Roys’ Kartick Puja. The gates to the mansion are wide open to people on this day.  Devotees turn in their offerings at a makeshift counter made next to the mandap. A room is almost full even before puja has started. Some also pledge small Kartick idols which are collected and worshipped together with the bigger one.

“Our forefathers had started the puja several generations ago at Rajshahi in Bangladesh. Later they moved to Malda and continued the tradition here. Noone knows the real reason behind such a grand Kartick Puja, but it is being performed for over 250 years and we are only maintaining traditions,” said Purnendu Roy, one of Monmohan’s six sons. The forefathers had earned the title Saha Roy, which the present generation has shortened to Roy Earlier, the puja and mela would continue for one month, but over the years, due to administrative constraints, the festivities have been restricted to only 4 days.

Kartick comes on a chariot carrying idols of 24 different gods and goddesses.  A 10 feet tall Kartick idol is seated at the centre. He is flanked by three rows of gods, goddesses and rishis on his sides and above. Savitri, Durga and Annapurna are seated in the warrior’s right while Lakshmi, Mahalakshmi and Saraswati on his left. Ganga, Jaya, Vijaya, Ganesh, Krishna, Agastya and Vishwamitra and Lav-Kush are seated on the row above Kartick  and the topmost row has Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswar, Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrugna. “The members of this family have always believed in keeping all the gods and goddesses appeased. Every time a son in born in the family, a new idol is added to the chariot. This year, a baby boy was born in the family for which the idol of Sashthi is a new addition,” said Jyotirmoy Pal, the idol-maker of the family, whose family has been making these idols since several generations.