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.
Niyogi Bari Durga Puja is as old as the family, say some. There are documental proofs that the Pujo existed even 250 years ago. Once celebrated with pomp and glamour at Patgram (Mymensingh district in current Bangladesh), the Pujo moved to Kolkata in 1947 and thereafter to Jalpaiguri in 1967.
The Durga protima at home this year
Following true Bangal customs and traditions, the idol breaks away from conventional structure seen at other households. Ganesh here resides with Saraswati instead of Lakshmi. The construction of the idol begins on Janmashtami with Kathamo pujo (instead of Rath Yatra). Unlike others, bhog here is mithai and not khichudi.
Durga Pujo at Niyogi Bari begins on Protipad, the day after Mahalaya, with the Chandir Mangal ghot sthapan. Chandi path continues for the next 10 days. On Panchami, Manasha is worshipped at the mandap, and Durga idol is brought in on Shashthi. Family members decorate the idol with gold ornaments and garlands, following which the priest begins Bodhon.
Another specialty of the pujo here is that on Ashtami night, Kali is also worshipped. Animal sacrifice has stopped and pumpkins are sacrificed instead. On Nabami, a special “ghol” is prepared for offering Maa Durga. It is called Durga Doi. When the pujo was based in Patgram, a tradition of “Aleek nimantran” was followed by the family. Anyone visiting the house during Pujo, was given free food.
Dashami bisharjan is also a gala affair. Earlier, Maa Durga was immersed through the middle of two boats – the tradition had to be stopped due to receding water level in the local river. Following immersion, Prastar Bandhan puja is held at the mandap, where all family members come together for Bijoya and mishtimukh.
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