Sea of humanity throngs Bengal streets on Mahashtami (Lead)

October 15th, 2010 - 9:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Oct 15 (IANS) Thousands of devotees thronged Belur Math to witness ‘kumari puja’ (worship of a pre-pubescent girl) or flocked to Durga Puja pandals across West Bengal Friday to offer ‘anjali’ (special prayers) on Mahashtami - the third and most important day of the puja.

Durga Puja, the five-day autumn festival that begins with Shashti and ends with Dussehra, is being held with great fervour at colossal marquees, where idols of the goddess and her four children are installed and worshipped.

Thousands of devotees flocked at Belur Math - the global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission - to witness ‘kumari puja’, one of the biggest attractions during the festival in which a pre-pubescent girl is worshipped as ‘Mother Goddess’.

According to Hindu mythology, the tradition was started to establish the value of women. Legendary religious leader Ramakrishna Paramahansa Deb resurrected the ritual in the late 19th century.

Apart from the Belur Math, various families and puja committees across the state also organised ‘kumari puja’. Some of these pujas are being held for generations and are star attractions.

The ‘kumari puja’ at the house of erstwhile landlord family of Bhowanipore Mullick Bari is most celebrated.

Mahashtami drew huge crowds at marquees across the state, as thousands of people participated in ‘anjali’ amid the chants of hyms and the beats of “dhak” (local drums).

Bengali celebrities, including veteran actor Ranjit Mullick, former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, took time out from their busy schedules and dressed in traditional Bengali attire to offer ‘anjali’ to Goddess Durga.

Moderate showers in and around several parts of Kolkata failed to dampen the festive spirit as thousands of people from different parts of the state and country came down to the celebrated Puja pandals to enjoy the biggest cultural extravaganza of eastern India.

The celebrations at Shiv Mandir, Santosh Mitra Square, Ekdalia Evergreen, Jodhpur Park, Shuruchi Sangha, Muduali, and Bosepukur Talbagan drew huge crowds.

The Durga Puja at Maddox Square, which is one of the most famous hangout of the young during the Puja days, drew a mammoth gathering this year.

Men, women and children turned out in their best attires on the city streets, visiting the marquees, and the footfalls increased from thousands to lakhs as the day turned into evening which gave way to night.

In north Kolkata, Santosh Mitro Square community Puja has taken up a unique theme of ‘Dori Dhore Maro Tann/ Raja Hobe Khaann Khaann’ (pull the rope and king will fall). The marquee has been decorated in the model of the state secretariat - the Writers’ Buildings.

Another community puja at Suruchi Sangha in south Kolkata’s New Alipore has taken up the theme of green activism and would showcase rainwater harvesting at its marquee.

As per Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga, the slayer of the demon Mahishasura, sits astride a lion and wields an array of weapons in her 10 hands.

It is believed that during the Durga Puja festival, the goddess, accompanied by Lord Ganesh and Kartik and goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati, descends on earth to eradicate all evil.

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