Durga Puja revelry soars on Maha Saptami

Kolkata, Oct 20 (IANS) The Durga Puja spirit – infectious and irresistible – drew revellers by the lakhs on the streets of Kolkata and elsewhere in West Bengal, as the young and the old went marquee hopping on the second day of the autumnal festival on Tuesday.

Decked up in their best, 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 work of art – on Maha Saptami (the seventh Lunar day).

With devotees and tourists soaking in the cultural and religious gala – the eastern metropolis seemed to have been transformed into a paradise on earth, virtually free of its trademark potholes and squalor. People danced, whistled, mingled with friends and family, relished the street foods on makeshift stalls, and patiently stood in long queues before the landmark marquees.

The usual five-day carnival, shortened to a four-day affair this time according to the almanac, is the biggest annual event in this part of the world when even newspapers shut down and roads are choked with human traffic throughout the day – and night.

In the morning, there was a huge rush of people to offer morning prayers, as the rituals began with ‘pran pratistha’ where 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 Ganesha.

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

About 2,470 community pujas have been organised in Kolkata, with diverse themes, lightings and decorations wooing the people.

In south Kolkata, Suruchi Sangha celebrates the theme of motherhood and empowerment of women, with a song penned by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee playing as the theme through the day.

Tridhara Sammilani has brought in the flavours of Rajasthan with its marquee designed on the theme of the western state.

Tens of thousands of marquees have come up elsewhere in the state.

In north Kolkata, Kumortuli Sarbojonin Dugra Utsav marquee highlights the humanitarian missions executed by the Indian Army

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 Dassehra. 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.

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