Bengal resonates with prayers, revelry on Maha Saptami

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Kolkata, Oct 8 (IANS) After a scintillating start, the Durga Puja spirit soared on Saturday which marked Maha Saptami — Day Two of the Puja — as thousands of revellers decked up in their best hit the streets of the metropolis and other places across West Bengal.

Bells chimed, cymbals clanged and the invigorating beats of ‘dhaak’ (drums) set the pace for the rest of the day.

People from the metropolis, the Bengal villages, other parts of India as also various countries walked shoulder to shoulder in gay abandon, paying obeisance to the goddess and watching in awe the colossal marquees — many of them beautiful works of art — on Maha Saptami (the seventh Lunar day).

They danced, mingled with friends and family, relished the street food on makeshift stalls and patiently stood in long queues before the landmark marquees. Even spells of rain failed to dampen their spirits.

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At least 3,000 community pujas have been organised in Kolkata, with diverse themes, lighting and decorations wooing the people.

The day began with morning prayers, as the rituals started off with ‘pran pratistha’, wherein the deity was symbolically endowed with life and invoked in a group of nine plants bunched together — the Navapatrika.

The ‘Kola Bou’, a tender banana plant symbolising a bride, was given a river bath amidst drum beats, wrapped in a sari and placed next to the idol of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god.

Through ‘pran pratistha’, the spirit of Durga as a warrior goddess is awakened, and she starts her battle against all evils manifested as Mahishasura — the buffalo demon.

In consonance with custom, fasting devotees offered flowers to the goddess in obeisance and later gorged on an array of delicacies.

President Pranab Mukherjee donned the priest’s robes and performed customary rituals for the Durga Puja at his ancestral home in West Bengal’s Birbhum district.

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The five-day carnival is the biggest annual event in this part of the world when even newspapers shut down and roads are chock-o-block with humans throughout the day and night.

People flooded the innovative marquees with family in tow. With hands folded in prayer, children joined their parents in chanting “Dugga Dugga” (Durga). Vacationers and shutterbugs jostled past crowds to get their best snaps and capture the fervour.

The Golaghata Sarbojoni Puja, in east Kolkata, the theme is dedicated to postcards stamps and letter boxes. The marquee resembles a giant mailbox. It has been set up with at least 50,000 postcards with the help of Kolkata BPO.

Organisers at the Beliaghata 33 Pally marquee have dabbled in nostalgia surrounding the Ambassador yellow taxis. They have artistically incorporated 15 taxis, 200 silencer pipes, 300 car doors and other parts of the vehicles to signify the importance of the cabs.

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The pujas at the houses of erstwhile zamindar (landowner) families of Hatkhola’s Duttas, the Devs of Shovabazar in North Kolkata and Bhowanipore’s Mullicks also drew a steady stream of onlookers.

Traditional pujas usually have medium-sized idols within one frame (ek chala) and are decorated with pith.

According to Hindu mythology, the festivities and prayers begin with the symbolic arrival of the goddess on earth on the sixth day of the first quarter 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 Mahishasur. She is shown riding a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her 10 arms.



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