Ranchi, Oct. 20: In Ranchi, no puja is complete without a trip to Laxmi Bhandar.
Located near Firayalal Chowk, the one-stop-shop for all puja needs has been around since 1922. Looking exactly the way it did all those years ago, the shop continues to cater to its fiercely loyal clientele, who throng it in hundreds in run up to festivals like Durga Puja.
Owner Paritosh Choudhary (52) can't keep the pride out of his voice when he describes how the shop's clientele has grown from strength to strength ever since it was set up by his grand father late Saroj Choudhary.
"My grandfather was a civil engineer who shifted from Calcutta to Ranchi in 1918 and after a few years started this shop," Choudhary said. When the founder passed away, the mantle passed on to Paritosh's father Subodh Chandra Choudhary.
Stepping into the shop is like stepping into a bygone era. Ask 51-year-old Kishore Kumar Thakur. "I have been visiting this shop since I was in Class IX and even today it is the only place to find original puja items at reasonable rates," he said.
Though it has remained in one place, the shop's business has expanded way beyond Ranchi, and today it caters to the needs of Puja committees in Hazaribagh, Gumla, Khunti, Lohardaga and Ramgarh, among others.
Explaining why he chooses to maintain a low profile, despite his roaring business, Paritosh is matter of fact. "We sell original puja items at affordable rates. Our motto is to provide service to the people and not make profits during Durga Puja, which other makeshift shops that crop up during the season do," he said.
Prices start from Rs 5 for a box of incense and goes up to Rs 6,000 for a kilo of pure sandalwood that is procured all the way from Mysore.
"We source items from different parts of India to ensure that our customers get the best," said the owner.
So while it's sandalwood from Mysore, dhuwan comes from Assam and the pristine white shankha from Murshidabad in Bengal.
It's this attention to detail that keeps the clients coming back every year. For 15 days in the run-up to Durga Puja, Paritosh has to keep his shop open an extra hour till 10pm to cope with the rush. He has to cater to 200 Puja committees and individual buyers in a week, with the big Puja organisers each spending Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 on samagri.
"This is the best shop as we get all basic puja items without any problems, which is something you will not get anywhere else," said Harmu's Panch Mandir Puja Committee member Amitabh Mukherjee.