Shobhabajar Rajbari’s founder Nabakrishna Deb had invited Lord Robert Clive for the first puja.
Today is the second day of the Durga Puja, Maha Saptami, and in every pandal in Kolkata, festivities are on. But when did it start in the city, the Durga Puja, and where?
One of the oldest pujas in Kolkata was held 257 years ago at the Shobhabhajar Rajbari -- a palatial old building in north Kolkata.
The story goes that the Rajbari's founder, Nabakrishna Deb, had invited Lord Robert Clive, the British officer who won the battle of Plassey, to celebrate his victory at the Durga Puja at his home.
Nine generations down, one of his heirs, Soumit Narayan Deb, said, "This is the oldest puja in Calcutta and it started in 1757 and Raja Nabakrishna started this Puja. Not only Lord Clive, Marquess of Wellesley, the Governor General of Bengal, also visited the pujas."
The puja has been held here since. After the British left, it was patronised by the Indians.
Sujata from California had to stop by Shobhabajar to see the puja with her own eyes.
"This is our heritage. You always want to know where it all started. It gives you an eerie feeling," she said. "I'm dying to tell my children about it. They couldn't come over."
Shinjini and her mother, now residents of Mumbai, are in Kolkata for the Pujas after 13 years. And they have already visited about 20 pandals.
"The modern pujas, with their themes and modern decor, are wonderful," said Shinjini. "The Shobhabajar puja is among the best. After all, old is gold."
Times have certainly changed since 1757 when Nabakrishna Deb started the puja. Many traditions have died out, like releasing two 'nilkantha' (blue throated) birds on immersion day. Bengal's wildlife laws have banned the practice. But 108 blue lotuses are still used to worship the Goddess here.
No wonder the Shobhabajar Rajbarir Puja remains an eternal favourite.