Chittaranjan Park (known as C.R. Park), is an affluent and a posh neighborhood in South Delhi and home to a large Bengali community. It was established in the early 1960s under the name EPDP Colony or East Pakistan Displaced Persons Colony, and later renamed after the patriot Chittaranjan Das in the 1980s. With its Kolkata like street food stalls, Bengali cuisine restaurants, fish markets, temples, cultural centers and add to that the maids, plumbers, electricians, shopkeepers speaking the Bangla language, when you are here it feels like truly being in Bengal, outside Bengal.
It was eleven years back. I had been elevated in my then organization to take up national responsibilities. And I had to move to Delhi. The company was sponsoring my hotel accommodation for two months and I had to move then to one of my own rented one. My instruction to the broker was to look for a nice apartment in C.R.Park. And only C.R.Park. He took me to a few properties till I found this one. M 40, C.R.Park. And I fell in love. A relationship that lasted all the seven beautiful years that I stayed in the city.
Apart from the apartment, there is much more to love about C.R. Park. It’s in the heart of South Delhi on Outer Ring Road with good access to the Delhi metro network. Malls, Multiplex, shopping centers, restaurants within close proximity and being close to Nehru Place, the business hub makes it a sought after destination. But for a Bengali like me it offered tons more. My food, my culture, my festivals and enough for my love of nature.
My journey during my years in Delhi was a solo one as my better half had her own professional commitments as a teacher in my hometown Kolkata, where I was stationed till then. ‘Wow a bachelor again’ was what I remember jokingly telling her. She had smiled but there was sadness written all over it. And we then looked for reasons to be happy. I would anyway travel every month home for few days on work commitments and she would come over twice in the year for 3 weeks each. That was the time we traveled on holidays in addition to the two very special festivals we spent together.
C.R.Park is special for Bongs!
During my early childhood and school days, till I moved out from my then small town hometown of Gaya for further studies, Durga Puja was more of a family and friends affair. Attending all rituals since morning in our Railway Institute for four and a half days and winding up late every night after enjoying musical shows, skits and movie screenings. With a break of few hours in the afternoon for lunch and a bit of siesta.
Somewhere as the years progressed and we moved to Kolkata, those pleasures went missing from our life with Durga Puja more of a competitive carnival, rather than a true community Puja in the locality where we stay. Till it was here in C.R.Park that I got back those beautiful moments in my life.
I have always been very proud of my religion Hinduism for the immense wisdom it imparts on Dharma- our religious and moral duties, Karma- the actions that we take in our life & Moksha- freedom from selfish desires. And I love to connect with God, the supreme power in different forms. But I have never been a passionate temple goer except during our travels when we try and visit as many as we can for the rituals and the brilliance of Indian architecture. But this one changed everything. The awesome Kali Mandir two minutes away from our apartment block.
Chittaranjan Park Kali Mandir is a temple complex and Bengali community cultural center. Built on a small hill, it started as a Shiva temple in 1973 with two more shrines dedicated to goddess Kali and Radha Krishna added in 1984. Over the years it has remained an important center of convergence of local Bengali community. The temple hosted its first Durga Puja in 1977, a tradition that continues to date.
Our Durga Puja days
Saptami and Navami was for a relaxed morning, a little laid back for a couple of hours with a few rounds of tea and coffee, a home made breakfast and then preparations to move out. On Ashtami day though we would get up early, bathe and move to our block Puja to offer Anjali (prayer & offerings) before returning home for breakfast.
C.R.Park has 21 blocks spread over an area of 1.75 sq km and there are almost the same number of Durga Pujas which are organized. That’s why it is so much fun walking all around and experiencing creativity in pandals, decoration and idols. What makes it even more special is the fact that each of them serve Bhog (cooked food offered to Goddess Durga and then distributed to devotees through community lunch) to all visitors on all three days of the Puja and have musical and other entertainment programs every night. Come let’s visit a few selected pandals.
Durga Puja Rituals
Celebrations never seem to end in C.R.Park
Durga Puja is followed in quick succession by ‘Goddess Lakshmi’ Puja which is celebrated in every household. And then it is the turn of ‘Goddess Kali’ Puja after about three weeks. This day is also celebrated as Diwali throughout India. The place to be in. Kali Mandir.
Is that all? No a last bit. Experience Poila Baisakh, the Bengali New Year in C.R.Park sometime. Must be honest, have experienced nothing like this ever before even in Kolkata or any other part of Bengal. It’s a Carnival following the real Bengali traditions. Men, Women & children alike. Celebrations across generations.
C.R.Park. A home I loved. And still admire. And miss the Pujas even now. Hope to be back next year to make up for the lost last 5 years. Do experience this Magical Bengal outside Bengal – Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi when you are there in Delhi next time. Either on vacation or on work.
I was first sad to hear that there are no Durga Pujas being organized and celebrated in C.R.Park this time except in Kali Mandir which is restricted to members only. But then happy that wisdom, logical reasoning and better sense prevailed. Ma Durga will be back again next year, but life won’t. Maybe she is here this time to destroy the Corona demon.
Wishing all my friends and readers from around the world “Shubho Ashtami”. Ma Durga – The daughter who has come home would be back to Mountain Kailash in two days time. May she bless us all with health, wisdom and happiness.