Category Archives: Personal Musings
Durga Pujo is upon us. The autumnal festival that celebrates the divine feminine, has gripped the City of Joy, and how. Braving the torrential downpour, people have begun pandal hopping, dressed in their best clothes.
As it was pouring on my way to work today, I was immersed in my thoughts. Is it merely coincidental that it has been raining incessantly for the past one week, causing floods in many States? Does it have to do anything with Maa Durga’s arrival on a horse this year?
The Hindu scriptures say that Maa Durga descends every year from Kailash to the earth in different rides – although her vehicle is the mighty lion. She uses four different rides – horse, palanquin, elephant and boat – to arrive in or leave from the earth. The ride, scriptures say, decides whether her arrival/exit will be auspicious or calamitous.
Depending on the day of arrival or departure, the type of ride is mentioned in the scriptures:
রবৌ চন্দ্রে গজারূঢ়া, ঘোটকে শনি ভৌময়োঃ,
গুরৌ শুক্রে চ দোলায়াং নৌকায়াং বুধবাসরে।
In simpler terms, if Saptami (the day, Maa Durga’s ‘pran protistha’ is performed) falls on Sunday or Monday, Maa Durga’s ride is elephant. The result is ‘Soshyopurna Basundhora’ (earth with abundance of crops). Similarly, if She arrives on Saturday and leaves on Tuesday, the ride will be horse. The result will be ‘Chhatrabhangastu Rangame’ (calamitous destruction).
If Maa Durga arrives/leaves on Wednesday, the mode of travel will be boat. This will result in ‘Sashyabriddhistha Jalam’. Which means that there will be a rise in the productivity of crops. However, there will be deaths due to floods. Meanwhile, if she arrives on Thursday and leaves on Friday, then the ride will be palanquin, resulting in an epidemic (Marakang Vabatu).
This only goes on to show that the elephant enjoyed immense respect among the Rishis who devised the scriptures. It is associated with good fortune. The other means of transport are all inauspicious and symbolise death and destruction.
One may brush this off as mere superstition. But the calamitous floods that have wrecked lives across the country, only make me wonder if the ancient sages were accurate in their vision.
There is a reason why Bengal is known as ‘Ruposhi Bangla’ (Beautiful Bengal). Nature has blessed her with divine beauty – from the Himalayas in the north, resplendent forests in the foothills, relics of history strewn across, and the scintillating sea beaches in the south.
The history of the sub-continent is deeply interlinked with Bengal. It is here that the East India Company defeated Siraj-ud-daula, the last independent sovereign. It is in Bengal that the Sepoy Mutiny began. And it was Bengal that played a central role in the Indian freedom struggle.
Unsurprisingly, our beloved Bengal has also been the seat of various religions. There are no less than 13 Shakti Peeths in the State, along with countless other temples, mosques, churches, and even Buddhist stupas – all bearing a stamp of the rich legacy the land bears.
On Maha Shivratri, I thought of sharing my experiences of two famous Shiva temples in north Bengal – Jalpesh and Jatileshwar. Both the temples are located in Jalpaiguri district, where I come from, and I have fond memories of visiting both at various points in my growing up years.
It is even more interesting that my visits to Jalpesh temple have mostly been with relatives from my father’s side of the family, while Jatileswar temple visits were with my maternal relatives.
Legend has it that Jatileswar Temple was constructed during the Gupta era. Built with stone and clay bricks, the traditional architectural pattern of that time, this temple will also impress those who have an interest in history.
The name suggests that this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the one with the jata-juta (matted locks). However, the walls of the temples are adorned with sculptures of several other Gods of the Hindu dharma.
Jatileswar is located around 30 km away from Jalpaiguri town and about 13 km from Maynaguri town. One can hire cabs to visit the temple or take the bus, get off at Huslurdanga and take a rickshaw.
Bonus: The serene location, idyllic rural setting and solitude will help ease your stress, apart from providing you a spiritual experience.
The Jalpesh Temple is one of the oldest temples of Jalpaiguri, as well as Bengal. It was founded by Bisu Singh, king of Cooch Behar in 1524 AD. The temple was rebuilt by Maharaja Narayan, son of Bisu Singh, in 1563 AD. It was again rebuilt by Pran Narayan in the year 1663 AD.
The main attraction of Jalpesh temple is the elephant-shaped archway at the entrance of the temple. A replica of Lord Shiva is seen balanced by the trunks of the elephants. As one enters the temple complex, there are many shops where you can buy ‘samagri’ for offering puja.
The Shiva Linga – called ‘Anadi’ – is located underground in the sanctum sanctorum. To touch the Shiva Linga, one has to completely lie down on the ground in prostrate position. During monsoons, the entire sanctum sanctorum is submerged in water, yet people come in large numbers to offer their puja here.
The ‘Shraboni Mela’ or Jalpesh Mela (as it is popularly known) is very famous in the region and attracts lakhs of devotees during the month of Shrabon (July-August). Maha Shivratri is also an important occasion where devotees congregate at this temple.
You can reach Jalpesh by cab. Nearest town in Maynaguri.
Located near the Gorumara National Park, Mahakal Mandir in Lataguri is a popular attraction for devotees and tourists alike. Located off National Highway 31, the ambience of the temple is ‘surreal’ and ‘adventurous’ to say the least.
Tall sal trees surround the array of stones, smeared in sindoor, alta and other puja samagri, the ‘deity’ at this ‘pagan’ setting. It is assumed that tourists entering the forest offer their prayers here for a safe journey. A small break in your journey, this ideal setting will also satisfy the photographer in you, apart from your spiritual bearings.