It’s that time of the year again, when anyone associated with Bengal in anyway, understands and looks forward to the Pujos. And though Durga Puja is well-known, its history and its modes of celebration are almost world acclaimed; there is a certain aspect of it that needs slight more elaboration.
It’s that time of the year again! It’s the time when Durga comes to her parents’ home with her children. Yes, the annual home coming of the mother to her original home is celebrated in the very place that a few months ago was trending on social media because of another daughter claiming at her marriage ceremony that she wasn’t going to cry because, of course, she would be coming back often to her ‘maternal ‘home.
This bride refused to acknowledge the age old ritual that once married; the daughter needs to call her husband’s home as her own. That her rights over her own home are diminished, just as her visits and her involvement in the family. Lauded by almost everyone, she set the tone and rhetoric for generations of past and present women who probably have the same thoughts and feeling, but are not able to neither express nor act in accordance.
So how does Durga Puja figure here? Durga Puja is about the victory of good over evil, about the power of a woman who can destroy wickedness if she decides to do so. It is about a mother and the celebration of motherhood that sustains life and all creation in general. And hence, when Durga comes to her natal home from her divine abode in Kailash, there is something about her wholeness and her emotions that resonate with every woman. The spirit of Durga Puja is thus very special, because in spite of being a Goddess, Durga is a bit like every other woman. And every woman in turn is a bit like a Goddess herself.
There is a yearning for going home, a sense of celebration when one visits the place of childhood and growing up years, of meeting up with old neighbors and friends, of sneaking into the school and college of yesteryears and of catching up on gossip and truths left behind. It is a sense of homecoming that is hard to describe because in some sense it is home that remains so for only a couple of weeks before it is time to leave it behind to continue with what our lives really embroil. It could mean coming home after marriage, from a break at the university or from work. Yet, coming home signifies arrays of emotions that keep us grounded and remind us of whom and what we essentially set out to be.
Durga Puja is perhaps an amalgamation of all such feelings. But yes, its major significance also lies on the lives of especially women. Who can forget Sindur Khela here? A ritual carried out on the last day of Durga Puja, is where married women smear the sindur on each other’s faces and on the feet and forehead of the Goddess. It symbolizes the woman protecting her husband and children from all evil and praying for a happy marital life. Recently, through various campaigns Sindur Khela has been opened up in certain sections to all women, including those who are widowed, unmarried, transgender or even those from red-light areas.
The point is that Durga Puja is about prayers, about the coming together of people across religion, about creativity and art, about culture and social bonhomie. But it also about its daughters, daughter-in-laws, wives, sisters and friends. It is about establishing a course of life that sticks with the societal norms and yet finds its wings to fly back to the divine. In fact, it is always not about physically coming home or in reality doing away with an evil person. It is about finding what home means to you, about fighting the wickedness that we all are so susceptible to and to nurture and create something that is so beautiful that it becomes a part of us, as it grows with us.
Here is wishing that every woman finds the Goddess that she truly is within her and has the courage to make any place home. That she spreads her love and care far and wide, yet fills her heart with these same emotions first. Because well, that is what she deserves – The pujo, the prayer that she seeks in Durga, is what she finds in herself too.