Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Festival, General > Durga Idol Immersion and flight of Nilkantha Bird

Durga Idol Immersion and flight of Nilkantha Bird

Durga Idol Immersion and Flight of Nilkantha Bird

A new twist to an age old custom

Also see: My compilation on Fanush

যাও উড়ে নীলকণ্ঠ পাখি, যাও সেই কৈলাসে,
দাও গো সংবাদ তুমি, উমা বুঝি ঐ আসে।

Sovabazar Nilkantha 19 7

The symbolic Neelkantha Bird, in the form of Fanush. heads for the heavens

Doshomi, marks the end of of the Durga Puja and on this day Maa Durga along with her children makes her journey back home to her heavenly abode in Kailash.

According to legend the arrival of the goddess back to her home is informed, to her  husband Lord Shiva, by a Neelkantha Bird. The Bengali poem at the beginning of the blog post mentions the journey of the Neelkantha Bird.

For centuries the traditional households (bonedi bari) of Kolkata have been following the tradition of releasing the Neelkantha Bird on the afternoon of Doshomi.

Two birds were released. The first one was released in front of  the house when the goddess made her way out of the house. The second was released when the goddess was immersed in water.

Neelkantha, literally meaning the blue throat, represents Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is also known by the same name due to his blue coloured throat.

According to legend a huge amount of poison was ejected during the charming of the ocean. In order to save the mankind from the poison Lord Shiva drank it. It resulted into his blue throat and hence the name Neelkantha.

Sovabazar Nilkantha 19 2

Neelkantha Fanush, being prepared at Bholanath Dham

Neelkantha or Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis) is a bird of the Roller Family and is distributed widely over west and south Asia. It is distributed through out the Indian Sub – continent and is the state bird of Odisha, Telangana and Karnataka.

Sovabazar Nilkantha 19 5

The fanush, symbolizing the Neelkantha Bird is all set to take off from the Sovabazar Rajbari (Choto Taraf)

Indian Roller is a stocky bird about 26–27 cm long but contrary to the name it has a brown throat, but the crown and vents are blue. The tail is a combination of different shades of blue staring from light sky blue and terminating at deep Prussian blue.

Sovabazar Nilkantha 19 6

The fanush, symbolizing the Neelkantha Bird takes off from the Sovabazar Rajbari (Choto Taraf)

Today Neelkantha or Indian Roller falls under the list of protected birds and according to the Indian Wildlife Act possession or trading of the bird can lead to a fine of Rs 25,000 or imprisonment or both.

Sovabazar Nilkantha 19 8

The second fanush is all set to takeoff from a boat in Hooghly River

So for almost two decades the practice of the release of Neelkantha bird have been stopped due to legal restrictions.

To keep up with the practice the bonedi bari’s have come up with a unique solution.

Clay Neelkantha Birds were carried in a cage along with the idol of the goddess and were submerged with the idol.  Sadly it lacked the grace and beauty of the former practice.

In 2018 Swapan Krishna Deb of the Sovabazar Rajbari came up with a new idea of replacement of the flight of the Neelkantha by replacing it with a fanush (paper made hot air balloons) (Also see: My blog post on Fanush)

Sovabazar Nilkantha 19 9

Two boats carry the idol of Devi Durga of Sovabazar Raj Bari for immersion, Bagbazar Ghat

In came Ajoy Dutt, the master fanush maker. Ajoy comes from Bholanath Dham on Beadon Street a short distance away from the Sovabazar Rajbari. The idol of Shiva Durga is worshiped at Bholanath Dham during the Durga Puja but Bholanath Dham is more famous for Fanush. Every year, on the afternoon of Kali Puja, more than a dozen fanush are let off form Bholanath Dham. Ajoy, with over half a century of fanush making experience, leads the show.

Sovabazar Nilkantha 19 10

Idol hits the water, the fanush, symbolizing the Neelkantha Bird flies towards Kailash

In 2018 Ajoy joined hands with Prabir Krishna Deb, an artist from the Shovabazar Rajbari, who painted the fanush with figures of Neelkantha Bird. Apart from the bird figures Prabir also introduced several other decorative elements including the write up of Sovabazar Rajbari in Bengali, which can well be considered as the unofficial logo of the family.

In 2018 two fanush were release one from the gates of the Rajbari and the other from the Bagbazar Ghat but without the presence of the Durga idol in the backdrop it lacked the nostalgia of the original event.

Learning from their mistakes the trio of Swapan De, Ajoy and Prabir decided to bring about some changes in 2019. It was decided to launch the first fanush from the courtyard of the Sovabazar Rajbari and the second from a boat on the Hooghly River.

First one released from the courtyard with the back drop of the Durga Idol. The women dressed in with sari with red boarders released the fanush with the male members dressed in white punjabi and dhoti clapped in the background.

At the Bagbazar Ghat the idol is loaded on a bamboo frame fitted in between two boats. The boats make their way to the centre of the river where the bamboo is cut off releasing the idol into the water. Ajoy and with is team was in a nearby boat and released the second as soon as the idol hit the water.

As the remains of the idol floated in the water the fanush quickly gained height and headed for Kalish, the abode of Lord Shiva, to the deliver the message of his wife’s arrival!

Sovabazar Nilkantha 4

Trio behind the new flight of the Neelkantha Bird. L – R: Prabir Krishna Deb, Swapan Krishna Deb and Ajoy Dutt (File Photo from 2018)

Note: The Neelkantha Fanush event happens in the Choto Taraf of the Shovabazar Rajbari. It is different from the Boro Taraf , which has a lion gate and a canon at the entrance. If you are approaching from the Central Avenue side it will be on the right and just beyond the Boro Taraf.

  1. October 11, 2019 at 11:37 AM

    Thanks. New learning for me.

  2. October 11, 2019 at 12:48 PM

    thank you for sharing article very helpful blog


  3. October 21, 2019 at 10:22 AM

    How interesting! Did not know of this tradition associated with Dasami. Thanks for sharing this story.

  4. November 7, 2019 at 12:41 PM

    Excellent as always.. Any idea why this bird is associated with this event? Have asked many people but no answer from anyone.. Rangan Da what do you think?

  5. The villa himalaya
    February 18, 2020 at 2:46 PM
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