Monday December 18, 2017

WATCH: The Devi bids adieu, year long wait begins

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Kolkata: Devotees thronged marquees and community pujas across West Bengal to bid adieu to goddess Durga on Thursday, the last day of the puja, which saw Mahanavami and Vijaya Dashami coinciding.

With anticipation of the homecoming of the deity next year, they participated in the last rounds of prayers and rituals.

As per the almanac, Vijaya Dashami – the last day of the puja – merged with Mahanavami this year, thereby shortening the usual five-day affair to a four-day celebration. Idol immersions on Dashami conclude the festival.

However, the majority of the immersions are scheduled to take place on Friday and Sunday due to Muharram falling on Saturday.

Adhering to tradition, some household and community pujas proceeded to the banks of the river Hooghly around late evening on Thursday for the immersion.


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(With inputs from IANS)

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Devotees Offer Prayers to Goddess Durga and Observe Fast for Nine Divine Nights, Starting Today

Navratri is a multiple days Hindu festival acknowledged during the autumn, every year. The festival holds immense importance in Hinduism as it is the festival of victory over evils

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Navratri
the nine-night Navratri Hindu festival

New Delhi, September 21, 2017: Millions of Hindus prayers in temples and observe a fast across India, as the nine-night Navratri Hindu festival begins on Thursday, September 21.

Navaratri or Navarathri, is a multiple days Hindu festival acknowledged during the autumn, every year. The festival holds immense importance in Hinduism.

Whereas, theoretically Navratri falls twice a year; the autumn Navratri also called as the Sharada Navaratri is the most popular.

Sharada Navaratri is celebrated during the lunar month of Ashvin which is post-monsoon (September–October).

Navratri
Durga puja is observed in the honor of divine Goddess Durga Maa

It is observed that the festival is celebrated for a different reason in the different part of the country.

  • Durga puja is observed in the honor of divine Goddess Durga Maa in the eastern and northeastern part of India, apposite to Navratri. It resembles the battle to restore Dharma and peace, Goddess Durga battles and emerges victory over Narkasur, the buffalo demon.
  • Dussehra is celebrated in the northern and western parts of India. ‘Rama Lila’ and Dussehra is a celebration of the triumph of Lord Ram over the demon king Ravana.
  • Similarly, in the southern part, the victory of Lord Rama or Saraswati is observed.

The victory of good over evil is the main cause of this celebration, sharing a famous epic like the Ramayana or the Devi Mahatmya.

It is believed that during Navratri, Goddess Durga or Lord Rama descends on earth to rid of demons and bless their devotees with happiness and prosperity.

Devotees believe that by controlling physical needs like hunger, a person can gain spiritually and that fasting helps create harmony between the body and soul. People fast for nine days to make their wishes come true.

The chanting of spiritual slokas, decorative pandals, new clothes, enacting stories of the legends is everything that happens in this multi-day Hindu festival. It is among the rich culture of the Hindus where public celebration of theatres, music, and dance be a part of this festivity.

The festival comes to an end with the final day, Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami, where the idols of the evil are burnt and alternatively the idols of the Gods and Goddess from the festival are immersed in the water body.

– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram twitter: @Writing_desire

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Mahalaya: The Bengali radio tradition

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It was four in the morning when I was woken up with a phone call today. The screen said ‘Ma’, my mother.

“Shunchish toh?” (Are you listening?)

I tuned into All India Radio channel (Akashvani), and the familiar long-drawn sound of the sacred conch shell filled the apartment.

Ya devi sarvabhuteshu, shakti rupena sansthita।
Namastashyai Namastashyai Namastashyai namo namaha।।

Most Bengalis would know these lines by heart as they constitute our earliest recollections of Durga puja.

From bleary memories, these lines surface from the time of tape recorders and radios. Early morning would see most of us awake, strains of Mahisasura Mardini floating in from nearby apartments. So successful have been our mothers and grandmothers in inculcating this timeless tradition into our very Bengali souls, that even those staying away from their Kolkata hometown resort to searching out Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s rendering of Mahisasura Mardini on the internet and listening to it as the day’s wake-up call.

Earlier, the day called for night-long feasting ending with the pre-dawn radio programme. A lot of the excitement has dwindled over the ages, but hints of nostalgia continue to grip us.

Mahalaya marks the end of the Pitri Pakhha (a 15-day tradition in which people pay their offerings and respect for their ancestors in river banks, in a ritual called ‘tarpan’) and the beginning of the first day of the fortnight long Devi Paksha.

Traditionally, artisans designing the numerous Durga idols add the final touches to the Goddess on this day– her eyes. After her ‘Chakkhudaan’ (donation of the eyes), the devi is asked to awake: “Jaago! Tumi Jaago!” as goes one of the timeless pieces in the Mahisasura Mardini programme.

Bhadra’s reverberating chants serve to remind Bengalis world wide of their roots and no matter where they are located, Mahalaya brings into fore the excitement that pulses inside every Bengali before Durga Puja.

“Ma asche” (Mother is coming), everyone whispers excitedly, and starts the countdown to the major four days of festivity even though Durga Puja itself is broadly a 10-day festival.

Mahalaya was first broadcast in 1931 over the Akashvani (AIR) radio station. The enchanting hour-and-a-half audio programme is a spirited recitation of Vedic verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ interspersed with Bengali devotional songs and classical music. The Mahisasuramardini Strota was written by Guru Adi Sankaracharya.

Organised by Premankur Aatorthi, Birendra Krishna Bhadra, Nripendra Krishna Mukhopadhya and Raichand Boral, the program, tells the story of Devi Durga’s origin and descent on the earth and her eventual vanquishing of the demon king Mahisasura. It was broadcast live till 1958, after which, a pre-recorded version was played. The programme has also been translated into Hindi for the Indian Diaspora.

In 1976, Bengal superstar Uttam Kumar had once recited the Mahalaya under the music direction of Hemanta Kumar. However, it didn’t resonate with the masses the same way and Akashvani went back to Bhadra’s voice.

Bani Kumar wrote the script while the eternal Pankaj Kumar Mallik gave the music. Bengali music stalwarts such as Dijen Mukhopadhay, Sandhya Mukhopadhay, Arati Mukhopadhay and Shyamal Mitra have lent their melodious voices towards Mahisasura Mardini.

In recent times, Doordarshan along with several other TV channels broadcast a visual rendering of the Mahisashura Mardini myth, usually carried out through dance, drama and music.

The story of Mahisashura Mardini speaks of the tyranny of the demon king Mahisasura against the gods and men. Unable to take his atrocities, the gods prayed to Vishnu for salvation from this evil. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva) use their powers to create a powerful female form- Durga, or ‘Mahamaya’– the source of universal power.

They bestow her with their blessings and the gods give her the weapons she holds in her ten arms. She rides into battle on the back of a lion and vanquishes Mahisasura, earning the name ‘Mahisasuramardini’– the destroyer of Mahisasura.

Mahisaura Mardini is now available in CDs and for download online.

You can listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s version here.

http://youtu.be/-uwjlI82yzk

 

 

 

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Hindus ask Blizzard Entertainment to withdraw Devi Avatar ‘Kali’ in Video Game

Hindus ask Blizzard Entertainment to withdraw the Devi skin from their video game Overwatch

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Devi Skin in Overwatch. Image source: NDTV
  • The skin is said to demean and be dismissive of the respected Hindu goddesses by letting anyone assume the avatar of a holy deity
  • Zed said, this false interpretation of Hindu deities and concepts for the purposes of commercialization goes against the core value “lead responsibly” of Blizzard Entertainment
  • Hindu scholars would willingly and happily provide the details needed to depict the skin respectfully as inaccurate depictions would influence the minds of highly impressionable children and teens

People belonging to Hindu community have urged the California-based Blizzard Entertainment to remove the Devi skin of the Symmetra character from its video game Overwatch. The skin is said to demean and be dismissive of the respected Hindu goddesses by letting anyone assume the avatar of a holy deity.

The Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, has asked the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, and its parent Activision Blizzard’s CEO, for a withdrawal in a statement in Nevada. He said, in the video game players can essentially control a devi by acquiring that skin, which goes against Hindu tradition of believers letting goddesses control their destiny.

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Symmetra, the character in question, is sent by her corporation “on clandestine missions around the world to uphold its corporate interests”. She is also famous for “utilizing her light-bending Photon Projector to dispatch adversaries.”

Blizzard Entertainment logo. Image source: kultur2.blog.fc2.com
Blizzard Entertainment logo. Image source: kultur2.blog.fc2.com

Moreover, it has been noted that the skin is an inaccurate depiction of the goddesses and the movements do not correlate with those in the Hindu scriptures. Zed has said that this false interpretation of Hindu deities and concepts for the purposes of commercialization goes against the core value “lead responsibly” of Blizzard Entertainment.

Devis are meant to be worshipped and not manipulated by the mere movement of a joystick, said Zed. He also added that the skin has reduced the sacred deities to no more than a character rather than appreciating the high place they hold in the scriptures.

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He noted the difference between artistic freedom and belittling the faith of a community for monetary gains. He has also added that Hindu scholars would willingly and happily provide the details needed to depict the skin respectfully as inaccurate depictions would influence the minds of highly impressionable children and teens.

Overwatch was released in May and had claimed to be a “critical hit” by the “premier developer and publisher of entertainment software” Blizzard Entertainment. Overwatch has also been localized for overseas customers by incorporating other languages.

– prepared by Varsha Gupta of NewsGram. You can find her on Twitter @VarshaGupta94

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