Monday October 23, 2017

Tripura’s unique Durga Puja is 500 years old and funded by state

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Agartala: A Durga Puja that is over 500 years old and is sponsored by the Tripura govenrment continues to be a draw for devotees in northeast India as the royal family has kept its traditional sanctity.

Tripura, the northeastern state currently ruled by the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist, is possibly the only one in India where the government continues to sponsor a over five century-old Durga Puja, that is also closely overseen by the erstwhile royal family.

With ‘Maha Sasthi’ or ‘Bodhan’ — the welcoming of the Durga idols — the five-day long Puja began on Monday at the famed Durgabari temple, located in front of the 114-year-old Ujjayanta Palace, eastern India’s biggest royal mansion.

“A few years after the beginning of the royal era in Tripura, the erstwhile kings started Durga Puja over 500 years ago,” Dulal Bhattacharjee, the octogenarian chief priest of Durgabari temple, told IANS.

He said: “The capital of the princely dynasty along with royal temple moved three different places – Udaipur, Amarpur and Puran Habeli before the state headquarters and the capital city along with the Durgabari temple settled in Agartala 177 years ago in 1838 by then Maharaja Krishna Kishore Manikya (1830-49).”

“The district magistrate of West Tripura earlier has to report in writing about the preparations at Durgabari to the former royal family and submit a final report after completion of the mega puja,” Bhattacharjee said.

“Now this practice has been slightly modified. However, every affair of the Dura Puja is approved by surviving elderly royal family member, Maharani Bibhu Kumari Devi,” he addeed.

Bhattacharjee has been getting Rs.6,000 as monthly honourium from the state government as chief priest of Durgabari temple.

Bhattacharjee, who is associated with the Durga Puja for more than 60 years, said it is on the final day of Dashami that the real splendour of the festival unfolds.

“The idols of Durgabari that lead the Dashami procession are the first to be immersed at Dashamighat here with full state honours, with the state police band playing the national song.”

As Bhattacharjee aged and became sick, his son Jayanta managed all traditional rituals of the puja. “The state government like in previous years has sanctioned Rs.3 lakh this year for the Durga Puja at this royal temple,” said junior Bhattacharjee.

Historian and writer Panna Lal Roy told IANS: “Tripura is the only Indian state where the state government, be it of the Left or non-Left parties, is at the forefront of funding such a Hindu puja. The tradition has been going on since Tripura’s merger with the Indian union and has been on during Communist rule in the state as well.”

A part of the fortress and royal mansion continues to be the abode of the former princely family and the remaining palace served as the Tripura assembly till 2009. It has now been turned into eastern India’s biggest museum conserving the history, life and culture of northeast India.

At the end of 517-year rule by 184 kings, on October 15, 1949, the erstwhile princely state came under the administrative control of the Indian government after a merger agreement signed between Kanchan Prabha Devi, then regent maharani, and the Indian governor general.

The merger agreement made it mandatory for the Tripura government to continue the sponsorship of temples run by the Hindu princely rulers. This continues even six-and-half decades after Independence.

A full-fledged division – Debarchan Vibhag – under district magistrates in four of Tripura’s eight districts now bears this responsibility and the entire expenditure of eight temples, including that of Durgabari, is met by the government.

“Before starting the five-day long worship of Durga and her four children, a procession led by the head priest, escorted by Tripura Police, goes to the palace to seek the consent of the former royal family to begin the puja of the deities at Durgabari,” said an official of the west Tripura district administration.

“A young buffalo, several goats and pigeons are sacrificed during the five-day festival at Durgabari in the presence of thousands of devotees – all at government expense,” the official told IANS.

People For Animals (PFA) chairperson Maneka Gandhi, currently union minister of women and child development, in a letter to the district magistrates earlier asked them to stop “cruel killing of animals in the temples” during religious festivities.

Historian Roy, who wrote many books on the royal era, said: “The Durga Puja in Durabari temple is unique in the sense that the prasad (holy offering) includes meat, fish, eggs and, of course, fruits.”

Though at least 2,500 community and about 100 family Durga Pujas are being held in Tripura, the Durga Puja at the Durgabari temple remains the main attraction for numerous reasons, including for its centuries old customs, kept alive by the royal family.

Traditional themes, prevailing issues and events continue to dominate puja pandals in the state with historical events forming part of the themes for decorations.

“Unlike in the past, there are no reports about extremists creating problems or asking people not to organise the puja. The number of Durga Pujas has also increased in rural and remote areas,” Tripura’s Inspector General of Police Nepal Das told IANS.

(Sujit Chakraborty,IANS)

 

 

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Asia Cup : India Emerge Champions for third time, Beat Malaysia in Asia Cup Hockey Championship

India emerged victorious for the third time

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(representational Image) India vs Malaysia Hockey Match wikimedia

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India overcame Malaysia 2-1 in the final on Sunday to win the Asia Cup hockey championship for the third time.

Ramandeep Singh (3rd minute) and Lalit Upadhyay (29th) scored for India. Shahril Saabah (50th minute) scored the reducer for Malaysia. (IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Communal Harmony, Anti-terrorism Highlight of Kolkata’s Durga Puja Immersion Carnival

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Durga Puja 2015 katakhali Dhosomi
Durga Puja 2015 katakhali Dhosomi. Wikimedia

Kolkata, Oct 4, 2017: Highlighting communal harmony, railing against terrorism and bringing diverse themes like the intricacies of human mind and the spirit of freedom to the fore, 68 community Durga puja organisers paraded their award-winning idols in the West Bengal government organised carnival here on Tuesday ahead of the immersion in the Hooghly river.

The carnival, a brainchild of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in its second year, showcased the prominent idols from the city and the adjoining districts in a colourful road show at the iconic Red Road here, amid tight security.

The three hour long event saw the puja organisers also exhibiting samples of various artistic creations used in their puja marquees on vibrantly decorated tableaux.

All the community pujas selected for the road show, were winners of Bengal’s ‘Biswa Bangla Sharad Samman’ award in various categories.

Banerjee and her lieutenants attended the event along with several celebrities from the city and foreign delegates. Representatives from England and Chile football team, who are in the city to participate in the FIFA U17 World Cup to be kicked off from Friday, were also present.

Also Read: Celebration of the Devi Shakti: Maha Navmi | Worship Goddess Siddhidhatri on the Ninth Day of Navratri 

According to the organisers, apart from the 20,000 spectators gathered on both sides of the road on occasion of the event, more than 50 lakh people all over the globe witnessed the one of a kind Durga Puja immersion carnival through live streaming in the social media.

Many of the age-old community puja organisers came up with tableaux aligned with various current affairs topics. Their floats in the parade also reflected those themes.

The Sree Bhumi Sporting Club, a major crowd puller in city’s eastern fringes, was the first off the block having won the award of ‘Serar sera’ (best of the best). With the marquee resembling the palace from blockbuster “Babubali”, the organisers decorated the immersion procession in tune with the theme.

South Kolkata’s Rajdanga Nabodoy Sangha emphasised the concept of communal harmony by portraying the peaceful co-existence of six different religions. The organisers put six people, dressed in the traditional attire of six different communities together on a tableau to emphasise that the different paths of religion actually leads to the same destination.

Yuba Moitri Kalighat, another south Kolkata puja that won the award for best branding this year, highlighted their stand against terrorism and celebrated the well being of mankind through their procession.

Tala Park Pratyay themed their tableau on the intricacies of the human mind. Beautiful fireworks marked their procession.

Meanwhile, a number of pujas headed by the representatives from the government and the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, focused on highlighting various state government initiatives.

For instance, the Samaj Sebi Sangha celebrated the the crusade of green in their procession and rallied singing school students who represent the exuberance of youth. They also hailed Bengal government’s ‘Sabuj Sathi’ initiative that presents a girl child with the sprout of a costly plant during her birth.

Pujas like Ekdalia Evergreen and Tala Park Pratyay showcased Banerjee’s award winning ‘Kanyasree Prakalpa’ meant for the girl students.

Celebrating the natural beauty of Bengal, the puja in Salt Lake’s FD block depicted a piece of rural Bengal amid the jungle of concrete. The singers in their tableau presented the diverse folk music of Bengal.

The special lighting installation from West Bengal’s Chandannagar made the Red Road look like a land of fairy tale. Several celebrities from the Bengali film fraternity, were also seen walking with various puja processions. (IANS)