Friday, September 23, 2005

Durga Puja:The God of all things

The onset of autumn signifies the homecoming of the Mother Goddess and brings with it the aura of festivity and celebration.

The entire town beomes one that week.Pious or agnostic,rich or poor,young or old,animate or inanimate;it just doesn't matter.There are puja pandals enclosing majestic idols at every nook and corner,smetimes more than one,and there are people who make sure they don't miss any of them.Be it the
super flashy Adityapur pandal or just the muhalla's 'Young Boy's Assc.(estd. 1994)' simple ensemble of canvas and bamboos.It doesn't matter,the Goddess resides in each and every one of them.

You know it's that time of year when young men come knocking at the door with colorful receipts in hand,anticipating a generous donation,when every open sapce fathomable is filled with hordes of bamboo sticks which slowly and methodically begin to take shape,when there is a loudspeaker playing in every direction you look and you ears hear the potpourri of so many songs (not necessarily religious) at once,when everyone rushes to the market to get the newest clothes with the bonus money.You just know and feel all excited.I know I do.

Come the day and the festivities begin.All pandal patrons put in huge efforts to make theirs the most noticeable ones.There even being some sort of competition to judge the best one.So every year we see some innovative ideas.Someone thought of making a 'Titanic' shaped pandal which looked anything but a ship.And what was Devi Durga doing in Titanic,such questions are not asked.Another one thought of re-enacting the 9/11 disaster (but why?).So we had wire running overhead and mechanical toy planes collided with the mock tower and there was fireworks.People stood and clapped.Still another one where they announced that the pandal was made of some million ice cream sticks.I went there half imagining an ice cream cup shaped pandal,but of course I was proven wrong.People are never short of ideas.

The city at night resembles a big social gathering.Everyone in their best clothes,smiling,nodding in acknowledgement and sometimes finding time to go inside and pay their reagrds to the Devi.One of the prime attractions is the mela that usually centers around a pandal.All those junk food stalls,curio shops,handicrafts,the merry-go-rounds and merry go-ups,the atmosphere is fun filled and exciting.My personal favorite is the so called 'maut-ka-kuan' though.Never fail to miss that.How they perform all those high speed tricks with almost no saftey measures is quite amazing.Something F-1 should learn from maybe.

The party continues all night,all day.People just wander from here to there to everywhere.The roads are choked with people walking at a leisurely pace,trafiic being stopped obviously.Group of young men (women too),yours truly included,form groups and camp from pandal to pandal,laughing,joking,watching,having fun.Small children hold the fingers of the guardians as tightly as their little fingers can,intimidated by the huge din and falshing lights,still contented within.For older people it's the Devi that matters the most.They just rush inside and close the eyes and clasp their hands and transcend into the devotee's world,where nothing else matters.Everyone gets something out of this.

It all ends on Dashmi,when with huge celebration the idols are hoisted into trucks with devotees dancing and singing along as the trucks beeline for the river.A site not to be missed again,a bit like the republic day parade,where every pandal has it's time to showcase what it had got.All roads converge to river,where amidst a sea of people,Devi is immersed into the river with moist eyes looking and following till the tip of her crown is subsumed by the waters.People head back home with heavy hearts,but already having plans for the next year.

I miss DP the most.The crowds,the pandal hopping,the awesome bhog,the atmosphere..I can't go on,it would leave a lump in my throat.How I wish,how I wish I was there.


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