Durga Puja spirit soars on Maha Saptami

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Kolkata, Oct 1: Pomp and pageantry marked Maha Saptami - day two of the Durga Puja - as thousands of revellers decked up in their best hit the streets of the metropolis and the districts of West Bengal on Wednesday.

The usual five-day autumn carnival, 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 (marquees) where idols of the goddess and her four children are being worshipped amid much community fanfare.

With devotees and tourists from different parts of the country and abroad coming down to have a taste of the cultural and religious gala, the eastern metropolis seemed to have been transformed into a paradise on earth, virtually free of its trademark potholes and squalor.

People danced, whistled, mingled with friends and family in an infectious all-embracing spirit.

In Kolkata, about 2,470 community pujas are being held. Besides, the goddess is being worshipped in another 5,000 households in the city. Tens of thousands of marquees have come up elsewhere in the state.

The pujas at the houses of erstwhile zamindar 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.

The religious rituals of Maha Saptami (seventh day on the lunar calendar) began with the bathing of a banana plant in ponds. The plant is treated like a bride, wrapped in a new sari and placed next to the idol of Lord Ganesh, son of Goddess Durga. This plant is called Kalabau' (banana plant bride) - considered the wife of Ganesha.

The ritual is called 'Nabapatrika snan-o-sthapan' and many believe this practise is traced to the agrarian society of east India.

The Nabapatrika (new leaves) consists of nine banana leaves. After the ritual, special worship for Saptami started and devotees on an empty stomach thronged pandals to pray to Durga and offered her 'pushpanjali' (floral offerings to the goddess).

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.

Traditionally, every pandal has an idol of Goddess Durga depicting her as slaying the demon Mahishasur. She is shown astride a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her 10 arms.

IANS

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