If any religious festival has turned into a celebration of culture, food and fashion at an en masse level, it has to be the Durga Pujas. This autumnal revelry that welcomes the beloved goddess to her home sees eclectic and unique works of art in form of installations and pandals which house the Devi and her children for five days.
But even before the advent of the “Baroyaari” (community) Pujas that started in the second half of the 18th century in Hooghly district’s Guptipara, Pujas were celebrated across Bengal in traditional households with all devotion and love. The womenfolk of these households steered the elaborate puja arrangements besides deciding on the menu of the food served to hundreds of visitors throughout the day. The sartorial choices of these women have historically discerned the Sabeki (traditional) Puja fashion choices which continue to influence the fashionistas to date.
In this special cover, we have tried to depict four such traditional looks that are still in vogue and emulated by even Gen-Z.
We collaborated with Parama Ghosh, whose eponymous label Parama has become synonymous with traditional and bonedi bari (aristocratic households) styles. This year too, Parama has revived a few very traditional saris and blouses which have stood the test of time and hold equal appeal among women of all ages.
“I am fascinated by the tradition, the bonhomie, the look and smell of the mansion during the five days. In these family Pujas, Ma Durga truly becomes the daughter of the family, untouched by modern art and themes. While going through the family albums of a few such households for this shoot, I was surprised to discover how most of these women continue the traditional way of dressing up, quite untouched by raging trends,” tells Parama.
We have created four such timeless looks for the four days of festivities with the very beautiful actress Tnusree Chakraborty. To match the aura, our location was Cally Krishna Tagore House, a 200-year-old Bonedi house which belongs to the descendants of Dwarpanarayan Tagore one of the oldest traditional Bengali households to perform Durga Puja for the past 150 years.
Here’s a lowdown on the looks and Parama’s festive collection, Chuti, that turns traditional fashion palatable for modern women.
Tell us about your festive edit?
We have been working with the weavers of Murshidabad to create Garad silks in vibrant colours, doing away with the starch that turns them crispy and unmanageable for young wearers. This Pujas, we did colourful stripes in Garad in red and white, black and grey and even borrowed colours from Deepika’s tangerine gown and turquoise earrings that she wore to Cannes besides vibrant pinks, reds, blues and peacock greens. Instead of traditional gold zari, we have used copper threads on the border to make them versatile.
We have recreated a lot of Jamdani patterns from erstwhile Bengal and have embroidered them on blouses apart from beautiful Jaal work blouses on silks and Jamdani. We have used silhouettes like Kedia Tops, closed necks and collars to make them wearable with skirts and trousers as well. Also, this is the first time we have made padded blouses with transparent backs. We have introduced printed blouses that are funky and casual and don’t always need a sari to be paired up with.
What are the festive wardrobe essentials?
A quintessential white sari with a red border in any fabric and a red blouse. I would always suggest wearing saris on all five days. Easy chiffons with deep-neck blouses to back-covered ones with heavy silks – wear what you are comfortable in.
Price on request. P98, Lake Terrace. On paramaculcutta.com
Simple yet Elegant
Tollywood star Tnusree shares her festive fashion choices:
Puja Fashion: My festive wardrobe always has a lot of saris and salwar suits. Saris are the only attire that makes you look your best and I love wearing heavy handwoven silks and jamdanis and natural weaves. For pandal hopping and relaxed get-togethers, I also prefer salwar kurtas. I like to wear simple yet elegant accessories that include small jhumkas, bangles and bindis.
How I spend my Pujas: Thanks to Puja judging, I get to see the best of the pandals and I love every bit of it. The rest of the days I spend with my family and friends and this year it will be all the more fun with my niece and sister coming for the holidays.
The best thing about Pujas: That we get to eat whatever we want be it biryani, cutlets, fries or phuchkas.
Puja buys: An ornate heavy kanchipuram and a very exquisite jamdani.
Saptami: For this look, the reference was photographs of unmarried women. “We had noted how they loved Dhonekhalis, Shantipuris and Kotki saris and embroidered blouses. Hence we have woven Bengal tile patterns on Shantipuri weaves. It is our tribute to the beautiful tile work found in old Calcutta houses. We matched the sari with embroidered tile patterns of Istanbul on the blouse. While choosing this look, I thought it apt to recreate old tile patterns on the garments, which like these mansions, are steeped in history and slowly moving into oblivion,” Parama observes. Long braids, thin bangle, gold chain and simple earrings from Anjali Jewellers complete the look.
Ashtami: We chose a handwoven Jamdani that took us 33 days to weave in sandalwood white, hibiscus red and lotus pink – all three being integral parts of Durga Puja paraphernalia. “Our weavers have used needle Jamdani technique to create Paan Jaal/ Kochupata Jaal and Daalim Buti on the borders and anchal of a Khadi by Cotton six yards. These motifs are originally from Narayangunj (Bangladesh)” tells Parama. An aubergine-coloured handwoven Jamdani blouse with vintage laces adds to the grace.
Since it’s Ashtami, elaborate hair accessories, Golap Naksha Kaanbala (rose motif earrings), Jui Phool Haar, Hangor Mukhh Bala, Chur, Shankha Pola and a Nathh (nose ring), typically worn by married women of these families have been used, courtesy Anjali Jewellers.
Nabami: We chose an exquisite royal blue Swarnachari sari replete with copper threads, floral and geometric motifs and beautiful lotuses all over the pallu. It is teamed with a peach brocade blouse. “There was a predominance of short-sleeved blouses in yesteryears with a lovely Bajubandh or armlet worn close to it. We completed the look with Jhumkas, Jaal Haar, Noksha Chur, Bauti and lots of gold bangles from A Sirkar,” says Parama.
Bijaya Dashami: “Though nothing but red bordered Garad saris dominated the Dashami looks, we were amazed to find some coloured borders as well in the old photographs. So, we intentionally chose a teal blue bordered Garad sari woven in Murshidabad and teamed it with a hand-embroidered silk blouse. The motifs are inspired by the textiles of Seville Cathedral, Spain. The floral patterns are very similar to our Indian motifs and we decided to recreate them on our blouse,” she states.
A major thing we noticed in every Bonedi Bari Pujo, is that the women always had their hair tied up, especially with the head covered with sari pallu while bidding adieu to the goddess. The traditional jewellery completing the ensemble are from A Sirkar.
CREDITS: Pictures: Upahar Biswas / Hair and makeup: Abhijit Paul, assisted by: Sananda Mondal Laha / Styling: Anupam Chatterjee / Jewellery: A Sirkar and Co. Jewellers, Anjali Jewellers / Location courtesy: Cally Krishna Tagore House, Dwarpanarayan Tagore Street