05 October 2019
Kolkata: The Durga Puja spirit soared on the Maha Saptami - day two of the festival, on Saturday as thousands hit the streets of the metropolis and other districts of West Bengal.
Bells chimed, cymbals clanged and the invigorating beats of dhaak (drums) set the pace for the day, notwithstanding 15 minutes of morning drizzle and some more showers in the evening.
Durga Puja, the five-day autumn festival that began on Friday, is being held with great passion at colossal pandals (marquees) where idols of the goddess and her four children are being worshipped.
Maha Saptami (the seventh lunar day), according to the almanac began, on Friday afternoon itself, but the rituals were mostly held on Saturday at the marquees and houses. The rituals were complete by Saturday afternoon, when Maha Ashtami (the eighth lunar day) started.
The day started with morning prayers, as the rituals begun 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.
In consonance with the customs, fasting devotees offered flowers to the goddess in obeisance and later on, stuffed themselves with an array of food items.
They danced, whistled, mingled with friends and family, relished the street foods, and patiently stood in long queues before the landmark marquees.
As many as 3,000 community pujas have been organised in Kolkata, with diverse themes, lightings and decorations wooing the people.
The social ostracism and continuing marginalisation of the third gender was the focus in the community marquee of Dum Dum Tarun Dal -- in the city's northeast fringes -- where in the background floated the song "tumi dekho nari pusush, ami dekhi sudhui manush" (you see only man and woman, but I see only the human).
There was a reference to ascetic Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's love for lord Krishna, and the various taboos on the third gender. In the imagination of the artist, the hand of restriction is metamorphosed into birds. The marquee also had huge masks, symbolising the LGBTQ community's helplessness, which forces them to conceal their real identity out of fear of lack of social acceptance.
In downtown South Kolkata, the golden temple of Amritsar seems to have sprung up in the marquee of Bhowanipore Baish palli Northern Park. With an eye for details, the organisers have created a virtual replica of the temple, simulating the pillars, the meenakari decoration, as also the lake in the premises.
Turning to the districts, the Kharagpur Netaji Byamagar of West Midnapore is drawing a huge crowd by presenting a piece of Egypt.
The club in the railway town of Kharagpur is celebrating the 50th year of its puja celebrations by adopting the ancient nation as its theme. The marquee is modelled on a pyramid, while the idols have a touch of Egyptian architecture.
The puja festivities and prayers begin on the sixth day of the first quarter of the moon and end on Dashami or the 10th day, celebrated across the country as Dassehra.
According to Hindu mythology, the puja celebrates the annual descent of Goddess Durga, the slayer of Mahishashur, accompanied by her four children -- Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati -- to visit her parents.