Festive atmosphere, religious fervour in Bengal on Maha Saptami

Kolkata, Oct 20 (IANS) A huge rush of people including celebrities and politicians to various marquees in West Bengal to offer morning prayers and join in the revelry marked the second day of the Durga Puja festival on Tuesday.

The day, celebrated as Maha Saptami, began with the ‘pran pratistha’ ritual, 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.

After the ritual, the ‘puja’ begins with fasting devotees paying obeisance to goddess Durga

The usual five-day autumn festivities, 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 the newspapers shut down and roads are choked with human traffic throughout the day and night.

Since early morning, people have been thronging colossal puja pandals where idols of the Goddess and her four children are being worshipped amid much community fanfare.

In Kolkata, about 2,470 community pujas have been organised. Tens of thousands of marquees have come up elsewhere in the state.

The pujas at the houses of erstwhile zamindar (landholder) families of Hatkhola’s Duttas, the Devs of Shovabazar in North Kolkata and Bhowanipore’s Mullick house 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.

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.

The celebrations though have been marred by some disappointment after the police on Monday banned public viewing of the Deshapriya Park puja in south Kolkata — which boasted of designing the “largest Durga idol in the world” — for flouting rules and regulations.

The police have also filed a case against the organisers claiming they did not take permission for the puja and flouted rules by erecting idols well above the stipulated 40 feet height.

A host of state ministers, movie stars and sports personalities visited various puja pandals to offer their obeisance to the goddess.

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