No puja in Cuttack is complete without this modern-day Baimundi

By Rashmi Ranjan Mohanty

Cuttack: With Dussehra round the corner, the Millennium City that is known for its filigree work has geared up its preparation for the festival at various levels. While artisans are busy giving their last touch to the clay images of goddess Durga, the Puja committees in the city are leaving no stone unturned to outdo each other in terms of decoration of Puja pandals.

But the contribution of an elderly man, who supplies key Puja essentials free of cost, is left unrecognised. A septuagenarian of Khatbin Sahi of Sheikh Bazar in the city, Gopal Chandra Haaldar (79) supplies Puja items like sacred water and soil that are immensely required for the sacred bathing of goddess Durga at the Puja pandals on Saptami, Astami and Navami.

Far from the sight, Haaldar is having a great deal of troubles while collecting the items required for the Puja rituals at the Pandals. He collects water from various sacred water bodies and soils from different sources which are hardly available in the local market.

Besides, he also offersitems like- kumkum, vermillion, sankha (bangle), Alta and many more.

Interestingly, Haaldar never charges a single penny from anyone for these necessary items even though his family of five faces a lot of hardship to eke out a living.

“My son works in a private firm with a very less salary. With price tags of essential commodities rising with each passing day, it has now become a hard task to run the family with his small income. So I support him with the small income from the vegetable shop which is run by me and my wife,” Haaldar said.

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Sharing his experience how he started the cause, he said “Way back in 1964, I had started offering the puja items to five to 10 puja pandals in town. Now, I am offering these items to all most all puja mandaps in the town.”

“I offer these items free of cost as it gives me immense pleasure to contribute in the puja on my part,” he stated.

“The articles which are required in the puja are hardly available in the market. I have to work throughout the year to collect these items. Water from sources like- Ganga river, sea, Sangam (the place where rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet), river, rain, stream, pond, due, Sarbatirtha are required in the puja. I provide them to more than 150 puja mandaps in the town during Durga Puja,” Haaldar added.

Besides, soils from different sources like- bed of Ganga river, river bed, Gajadanta (soil from an elephant’s tusk), seashore, Sangam, soil from king’s courtyard, cowshed, mountain and soil from a sex worker’s home are also required during the Goddess Dugra’s sasthi, saptami, astami and nabmi puja.

Asked about how he collects these articles which are hard to found, Haaldar said, “I do visit some places to collect these items. While, I go to a field nearby my home every day in the morning to collect the due, some time I visit other places to collect the other articles needed for the puja.”

“Besides, I also take help from other people to get the items available outside the state,” he informed.

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