Bengal celebrates Mahashtami with Kumari puja, marquee visits

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Kolkata, Oct 9 (IANS) The Durga puja spirit peaked on Sunday in West Bengal as devotees from across the country and abroad converged at the Belur Math for Kumari Puja (worship of a pre-pubertine girl) and triggered a human tsunami on the city streets as they watched awestruck the grand marquees and aesthetically crafted idols.

The day termed Maha Ashtami — eighth day of the lunar calendar and third day of the Durga puja festivities — when weapons of goddess Durga were worshipped (Astra Puja) and hymns chanted in praise of the deity.

According to Hindu mythology, on the eighth day of the Navratras, the fierce form of the mother goddess — Bhadrakali — was invoked to slay Mahishasura, the buffalo demon king, while various other gods bestowed their blessings and weapons to the incarnated form of the mother goddess to battle the demon king.

The Mahashtami rituals began in the morning with Kumari Puja that celebrates the spirit of womanhood.

Belur Math, the global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, 10 km from here in Howrah district, saw a huge crowd, as in previous years. The devouts had come from almost all the states and also various countries in Europe, Asia and America

Kumari Puja was started by Swami Vivekananda in 1901 at the Math to underline the importance of women.

The girl who is worshipped symbolises the power that regulates creation, stability and destruction on the Earth.

At dawn, after a ritual bath in the holy waters of the Ganga, the ‘Kumari’ was wrapped in a red sari and adorned with flowers and jewellery, with a ‘sindur (vermillion) tilak’ on her forehead.

The Kumari fasts until the worship is over. She is made to sit before Goddess Durga’s idol on a decorated chair with priests chanting hymns and dhak (traditional drum) being played in the background.

After the puja, the divinity of the goddess descends into the Kumari, said a priest.

Kumari puja was also organised in the community marquees and a large number of households worshipping the goddess during the five-day carnival.

Selfie sticks were out as the youths captured every moment of offering prayers to Goddess Durga as part of an Ashtami ritual.

Though less in number, Belur Math also saw mobile phones being flashed and check-ins posted on Facebook as social media caught up with the rituals.

The morning also saw people in almost every city, town and village of the state with people of all ages turning out in bright, new outfits to give anjali (floral offerings) to the goddess at the community marquees as also before the household idols amid heavy beats of dhaaks (drums), chimes of bells and twinkling lamps (diyas).

As the day turned into night, lakhs of revellers did frenzied marquee hopping in the brightly illuminated streets, lanes and by-lanes, relishing every moment of eastern India’s most celebrated five-day carnival, notwithstanding the occasional showers.

Pallishree puja committee in north Kolkata impressed the visitors with its theme that gave a call not to disturb the ecological balance ordained by nature in the name of beautification or development. The marquee premises presented a riot of colours as the people were led to a fantasy world of art installations in the form of animals, bugs and birds.

In south Kolkata, the Padmapukur Youth Association paid homage to legendary director Satyajit Ray by installing statues and models of the gratest characters from his films including Feluda and Gupi-Bagha. Also adorning the marquee are posters from films.

According to Hindu mythology, the Durga Puja carnival beginS with the symbolic arrival of Goddess Durga on the Earth on the sixth day of the first waxing fortnight of the moon and ends on Dashami or the 10th day, which is celebrated across the country as Dussehra.

Traditionally, every pandal has an idol of Goddess Durga depicting her as slaying the demon Mahishasur. She is shown astride a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her 10 arms.

–IANS

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