Thousands gather to witness Kumari Puja in Belur Math
Kolkata: Domestic and foreign devotees gathered at Belur Math, the global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, for the worship of a pre-pubertine girl as the goddess as Durga Puja celebrations reached their peak on Mahashtami here on Thursday.
Kumari Puja was started by Swami Vivekananda in 1901 at the Math to underline the importance of women.
The girl who is worshipped symbolises the power that regulates creation, stability and destruction on Earth.
At dawn, after a ritual bath in the holy waters of the Ganga, the 'Kumari' -- a pre-pubertine girl -- was wrapped in a red sari and adorned with flowers and jewellery, with a 'sindur (vermillion) tilak' on her forehead.
The Kumari fasts until the worship is over. She sits before Goddess Durga's idol on a decorated chair with priests chanting hymns and dhak (traditional drum) playing in the background.
After the puja, the divinity of the goddess descends into the Kumari, said a priest.
An ambience of merriment prevailed over the entire West Bengal with devotees dressed in their best offering anjali (floral offerings) to the goddess amid the heavy beats of dhaaks (drums), chimes of bells and twinkling lamps (diyas).
Since early Thursday morning, teenagers were seen queuing up outside the prominent puja pandals in groups, perhaps to avoid the rush later in the afternoon and also relish every moment of eastern India's most celebrated festival.
The pandal hopping, that started well in advance than usual this year, gathered steam among the enthusiasts as the weather remained nice and sunny in spite of the forecasts of heavy showers during the puja.
On Ashtami, the rituals began in the morning with Kumari Puja to celebrate the spirit of womanhood.
Belur Math in Howrah district, 10 km from here, saw a huge gathering like the previous years.
Selfie sticks were out as youths captured every moment of offering prayers to Goddess Durga as part of an Ashtami ritual.
The five-day carnival is the biggest annual event in this part of the world when even newspapers shut down and roads are choked with human traffic throughout the day and night.
According to Hindu mythology, the festivities and prayers begin with the symbolic arrival of Goddess Durga on the Earth on the sixth day of the first, waxing fortnight of the moon and ends on Dashami or the 10th day, which is celebrated across the country as Dussehra.
Traditionally, every pandal has an idol of Goddess Durga depicting her as slaying the demon Mahishasur. She is shown astride a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her 10 arms.