Kolkata, Oct 21 (IANS) Durga puja fervour and gaiety peaked on Wednesday in West Bengal as thousands of devotees from across the country and abroad converged at Belur Math in Howrah for Kumari Puja (worship of pre-pubescent girl).
They also thronged the city streets in lakhs to get a glimpse of the fascinating marquees and the idols.
The day marked Maha Ashtami – the eighth day of the lunar calendar and third day of Durga puja festivities – when weapons of goddess Durga are worshipped (astra puja) and hymns chanted in praise of the deity.
According to Hindu mythology, on the eighth day, a fierce form of the mother goddess – Bhadrakali – was invoked to slay Mahishasura while other gods bestowed their blessings and weapons to the incarnate to battle the buffalo demon king.
The rituals began in the morning with Kumari Puja, where girls are worshipped as personification of the goddess.
The mythological texts decree that Kumari Puja establishes the importance of women. The maiden who is worshipped symbolises the power that regulates creation, stability and destruction on Earth.
Kumari Puja was started by Swami Vivekananda in 1901 at the Belur Math, headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, 10 km from Kolkata in Howrah district.
Thousands of devotees, including movie stars and sports personalities, rushed early morning to offer ‘anjali’ (floral offerings) to the goddess.
The normally five-day carnival, reduced to a four-day affair this year as decreed by the almanac, is being celebrated across the state with enthusiasm and religious fervour.
In Kolkata, around 2,470 community pujas are being held. Besides, another 5,000 households in the city are worshiping the goddess.
Tens of thousands of marquees have come up elsewhere in the state.
Lakhs of people, attired in new clothes, visited the marquees in the afternoon. Long queues were seen outside landmark community puja marquees.
The FD Block Durga Puja committee in Salt Lake drew a large crowd with its theme of a rural temple, while Chetla Agrani Sangha in south Kolkata’s Kalighat came up with an environment-friendly idea by making a marquee with chairs, water pots and oil barrels to promote the cause of recycling.