Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Durga Puja at the Narnouli Dharamshala, Mhow (MP), India

Durga Puja. Memories of the puja holidays in Shillong. Thoughts on my family deity the Goddess Shakti - the divine energy behind Shiva. For the third year in succession I went and spent time on the ashtami, navami and dashami (the 8th, 9th and tenth days of the puja) with a small group of families at the Narnouli Dharamshala in Mhow. I must thank my friend Soumitra Choudhary who had insisted two years ago that I must attend the puja celebrations. When I went there I realised that I knew most of the families. The Ghosh family, the Mohantys, the Bannerjees.... As the Bengali community does not have its own community hall this dharamshala built by the Marwari community is used by them. I try my best to make it to the pandal on the saptami (7th day), ashtami, navami and dashami

I remember attending the entertainment program put up by the Bengalis of Mhow during the late sixties and early seventies. The Bengali community associated with the Army continues to hold its puja celebrations in a ground near the Military Hospital Mhow. This is not surprising as the Army Medical Corps has a very old relationship with Bengal and it dotors. I wonder if there is any Military Hospital in India without a Bengali doctor posted there. At any given time there is at least one Bengali doctor posted in Military Hospital Mhow. I don't remember any time during my childhood when I didn't see a Bengali doctor in a military hospital.

The three days went by in a daze. A friend was visiting Mhow on the ashtami so we went for the pushpanjali together. Stayed back and had a very tasty lunch sitting on a mat. Began with brinjals and ended with payas.

Navami was a special day. The puja ended with the visarjan on dashami. Before that the married women bade farewell to the Goddess with vermilion and sweets. It was as if a small group were playing Holi. Very graceful indeed the Sindhur Khela. And before the idols were brought down there was also the ritual of trying to see the Goddess's feet in a mirror kept in a tray full of water. A friend sent me an sms that I must take a look at Durga's eyes. She had spent some years of her childhood in Kolkatta and her friends there had told her that Durga is sad on Dashami - the day she has to leave.

After taking the idols in a procession down Sanghi Street and Main Street we drove down to Beircha lake. The statues were immersed there. Ganesh, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kartikeya were immersed with Durga.

A small cultural fest was held after everybody had changed and come back. Barring one or two songs in Bengali the remaining songs, items and jokes were in Hindi. A quaint way of saluting the Malwa area of Madhya Pradesh where we live. Any non-Bengali would also have felt at home. It all ended with a tasty dinner of puris, aloo sabji, daal and mithai. I have taken a few photographs which I am uploading here. Till the next year's puja celebrations.


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