By Arnab Mitra
Kolkata: With conch shell giving out a clarion call marking the arrival of Durga puja, the self proclaimed ‘civilized’ mass of the society seems to do a volteface with the rituals forcing them to pay a visit to the den of the sex-workers to get the clay needed for making the Durga idol.
The holy Puran directs the use of four mandatory ingredients – mud from the banks of the Ganges, urine of cow, cow dung and soil from a prostitute’s home for sculpting the idol.
According to Hindu mythology, Mahisashur, the devil, triggered Devi Durga’s wrath with his wicked attempt to harass her in the battleground. Durga, however, vanquished Mahisashur and since then her idol is worshiped as a celebration of the victory of good over evil. In Ramayana, at the time of Akalbodhan, Lord Ram used the soil taken from a prostitute’s home name Ambalika to make Durga idol.
The Punya mati (sacred soil):
It is believed that when a person steps inside the home of a prostitute, he leaves behind his purity and virtue and enters into the carnal world of sin. The soil, which has retained the virtue and purity is therefore used for sculpturing the holy idol.
The custom, once initiated by Lord Rama, is followed with utmost sincerity in West Bengal whose biggest festival is the Durga Puja. Priests visit the brothels to ‘beg’ for the clay which is used as the first touch to the idol and also during the concluding ceremony.
The voice of the derived:
Feeling alienated, one sex-worker from Kolkata’s red light area lamented that despite every idol in Kolkata having clay from their ‘forbidden land’, the society does not approve of their participation in the festivities.
However, for the last three years, the land of the forbidden is blessed with the presence of the Durga idol as they have been organizing a puja in their very own campus. This year they have moved a step further as they fought a legal battle to get the permission to organize their puja in hall run by the Kolkata Municipal corporation.