Kolkata: Celebrated on the new moon day of the Hindu month Kartik, Kali Puja, also called Shyama Puja, or Mahanisha Puja, is a festival dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. While the Bengalis, Odias and Assamese worship the goddess Kali, Lakshmi puja is conducted on this day by the rest of the nation.
King Krishnachandra of Navadvipa introduced Kali Puja in Bengal during the 18th century. Within the next century, the patronization of this festival by Krishanachandra’s grandson Ishvarchandra along with the Bengali elite raised the popularity of the puja enabling it to take its grand form today.
Devotees and worshippers honour the goddess by giving offerings of red hibiscus flowers, sweets, rice, lentils, fish, meat and even ritualistic animal sacrifices to her clay idols in homes or at pandals. The goddess is worshipped with tantric mantras and rites at night and true devotees are supposed to meditate throughout the night till dawn. Blood donation camps and other events are carried out throughout Bengal by many clubs holding their individual Kali pujas.
New Delhi, September 25, 2017: Goddess Skandamata shows up during the 5th day of the Hindu festival Navratri. The 5th form of Goddess Durga and also the mother of the commander in chief of the devatas, Lord Kartikeya.
Devi Skandamata is portrayed as a Goddess holding her infant, Lord Kartikeya, with her right arm and a lotus in her above two hands. The left arm of Devi is in a posture to grant blessings to her devotees. She has four hands, 3 eyes with a beautiful bright complexion. Skandamata is also called as Padamasani since she is portrayed in her idol being seated on a lotus flower. She is also seen with a lion as her vehicle. Goddess Skandamata is worshipped in the form of Parvati, Maheshwari and Mata Gauri.
It is strongly believed that Devi Skandamata is a Goddess of salvation, prosperity, power, and treasures.
The legend says that Tarkasur, a great demon who used to torture and massacre the people on earth wanted the immortality power. To please Lord Brahma with his devotion he went through extremely tough forfeitures. In return for his devotion, he asked Lord Brahma his blessings to make him immortal. However, Brahma denied his request, but Tarkasur acted smart and asked Brahma to give him boons which say that only the son of Lord Shiva can bring him to death since he thought that Shiva would never get married to have any children.
Nevertheless, Lord Shiva got married to Parvati and with her 5th form, Goddess Skandamata, Lord Kartikeya was born. As he grew, he came to know about the boon given by Lord Brahma to Tarkasur and that only he can kill him and bring peace to the earth.
The Gods gave Kartikeya their blessings with special powers and weapons, and he killed demon Tarkasur on the battlefield.
Devi Skandamata is the symbol of mother-son relationship.
People worship her to get immense love and affection from her as a blessing.
Navratri is the Hindu festival that holds immense importance in Hinduism. It is believed from the tales that during the festival, Goddess Durga descends on earth. She blesses her devotees with happiness and prosperity and brings an end to the evil.
Devotees believe in worshipping and fasting for all nine days which can bring a change to their lives and make their wishes come true.
– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_desire
New Delhi, September 23, 2017: The celebration for Navratri continues for the third day. Tritiya, as it’s named suggest the third day is devoted to Maa Chandraghanta, the married form of Goddess Parvati. The ten day long festival of Sharad Navaratri is the celebration of the feminine divine power Goddess Durga.
Maa Chandraghanta, which means “one whose bell is shaped like half-moon” is worshipped with a belief to be free from any ill effects of Shukra (Venue), one of the nine planets. Shukra is believed to be the controller of our sense organs and empower us to achieve name and fame.
In the religious manuscript the goddess is represented with the deity mounting over a tigress. Chandraghanta is portrayed with ten hands with each carrying mace, trishul (trident), sword, water pot, bow, arrow, rosary, and two hands with the blessing posture of Varadamudra and Abhayamudra. She has her third eye, always open, which symbolise her to be ever ready for war against the evil.
People worship her to get rewarded with her grace, and courage. It is believed that with her grace the evil doing, sins, physical and mental suffering are all destroyed.
What the legend of Maa Chandraghanta says?
When we come to the legend of our Hindu God and Goddess, the tales are never ending. A story tells that Lord shiva, the destroyer, promised Parvati that he will not marry any woman. However, Parvati’s devotion overwhelmed Lord Shiva and so, he agrees to marry her. On the day of their marriage, Shiva march along with other Gods, mortals, ghost, Aghoris, ghouls and Shivaganas to King Himavan’s Palace to take away his daughter, Parvati. The terrorized form of Shiva traumatized Parvati’s mother. This is when Parvati transform into Goddess Chandraghanta to protect her parents.
Chandraghanta persuaded Lord Shiva to reappear in his original form. Shiva appeared as a prince ornamented with jewels, and soon Parvati and Lord Shiva gets married.
The day starts with early morning prayers where devotees chant mantra ‘Om Ayam hreem Chandraghantaya namah’ to worship Maa Chandraghanta. Later, an offering of Goddess favourite jasmine flowers, sindoor (vermilion), kheer (sweet rice), and cow milk is made, followed by prayers to Lord Shiva.
The festival holds immense importance in Hinduism. It is believed from the tales that during the festival, Goddess Durga descends on earth to bless her devotees with happiness and prosperity and bring an end to the evil.
Devotees believe that by fasting for all nine days can bring a change to their physical life and also make their wishes come true.
– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_desire
Kolkata, Sep 15, 2017: For over 200 years, the Nandi family in West Bengal’s Hooghly has been feeding Muslim fakirs during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. To the Nandis, this annual ritual has its roots in a family legend that is testimony to the generosity of the local Muslim community.
It is also one of the myriad instances of the festival — the biggest in Bengal — exemplifying communal harmony at a time when the world grapples with religious animosity and social polarisation.
According to 80-year-old Satipati Nandi, the ninth-generation descendant of the family that claims to have been the “largest importer of betel nuts in eastern India once upon a time”, this Hindu-Muslim syncreticism comes naturally.
“It may sound as a big deal today but it all started centuries ago. It is said that two brothers, Kuber Shankar and Kama Shankar, were selling pakodas (fried snacks) in Halishahar in North 24-Parganas when they chanced upon a fakir who gave them a gold mohar (coin) to start an enterprise… revolving around the first thing they spot,” Nandi told IANS.
The rest is history.
The Nandis ventured into the betel nut business and eventually branched out into real estate, acquiring multiple properties across the state, including the present family residence at Pandua in Hooghly as well as land in Garia in south Kolkata.
“In remembrance of the generous fakir, we feed two fakirs on Navami (the ninth day of the festival). Now we usually do not find fakirs; so we offer khichdi to any two members of the Muslim community,” Nandi explained.
This communal integration has spilled on to the state capital Kolkata as well.
In the heart of Kolkata is Kumartuli — the potters’ enclave — which is in a state of frenzy with Durga Puja that is round the corner. The clay idols of Durga and her pantheon are being daubed in paint and their curves clothed in vibrant saris.
Their bald heads are carefully draped in jute wigs that have been painstakingly fashioned into braids and curly tresses for the Hindu goddess by Muslim craftsmen.
Neither blinding rain nor religion get in the way of business in this buzzing maze-like colony of potters and their assistants, labourers, decorators and tourists with selfie sticks — the point of origin of around 5,000 clay Durga idols each year.
Around 400 “shilpis” (craftsmen) churn out Durga and her children in crammed 6 by 10 foot studios, cloaked in tarpaulin sheets. The final touches, which begin around a fortnight before Mahalaya (September 19), include decking the idols in accessories.
“Draping the hair is an essential part of the process. The jute wigs are fashioned by Muslim families from Parbatipur near Howrah and other areas. A typical ‘sabeki’, or traditional idol, usually dons a curly and wavy wig. Essentially, they are mostly black but we do have variants of the wig in dark brown, rust and beige,” Babu Pal, a spokesperson for the potters, told IANS.
Slightly rough in texture, they are almost indistinguishable from your average wigs. Packed in bundles starting off at Rs 100, these are available as plaits, straight extensions for the sides or as wavy locks.
“Everyone comes to look at the idols. They admire, take pictures and go away. But it’s not just the idols… you have to assemble the goddess piece by piece. Muslim craftsmen usually fashion the dress material and the wigs. You may talk about cow politics and put a religious spin on it, for us it’s the way of life here… no one talks about this (Hindu-Muslim issues)… it’s business,” Pal elaborated.
According to Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, Hindu-Muslim integration during the Durga Puja was not uncommon in undivided Bengal.
“It has continued despite geographical barriers because the festival now is a huge industry. It provides employment to people from all communities. It’s only some politicians and communal-minded people who give it a different spin. During immersions too, everyone comes together to bid adieu to the goddess and family. She is looked at as a source of strength and not as a religious symbol,” Bhaduri added.
And you don’t have to look further than Begampur town in Hooghly district to see several Muslim families celebrating Durga Puja as a symbol of the common culture of the festival that unites Hindus with other minorities, at least in Bengal.
(This story is part of a special series that will showcase a diverse, plural and inclusive India and has been made possible by a collaboration between IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at email@example.com)