Big, bright and beady eyes looking right through you, resting her gaze on meeting the soul, Durga, the beautiful supreme goddess, asks you to dare. The three-eyed deity, in a blast of red and yellow, and a thunderous jubilant tune, asks you to be brave.
Every mortal being bows and offers herself and dances madly, in a daze, circling in the incense fog, urging goddess Durga to bless and enlighten her devotees.
Durga Puja, a Hindu festival, celebrates every shade and story of life, fostering passion, guiding the troubled, reminding the beaten soul to rise once again.
Many old Hindu scriptures have passed the story of the fierce warrior goddess Durga, with a royal lion as her vahana (vehicle) by her side, killing Mahishasura, a shape-shifting deceitful demon who had caused havoc on the earth.
Grand clay idols of Durga – her ten hands carrying various weapons, slaying the terrible Mahishasura with a trishul (trident) who lies on her feet – are built and placed under beautifully decorated marquees.
Different avatars of goddess Durga are worshipped for ten days – for she is the personification of power, wealth, emotions, intellect, nourishment, beauty, desires, faith, righteousness, forgiveness and peace – and on the last day, the idol is taken to a local river body for visarjan (immersion of the idol). She then returns to her husband, Lord Shiva, who resides in the Kailash Peak in the Himalayas.
Slayer, nurturer, the feminine soul of the Universe, Durga is the life force, the will to survive, the spirit to fight back, the joy of being alive and the celebratory dance of the Creation.
Exceptionally popular in the eastern parts of India – mainly in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Bihar – these states lit up magnificently, colouring every nook and corner alive. In our corona-hit world, with provisions in place, India welcomed goddess Durga once again.
More of a socio-cultural festival than just a religious one, the artists always come up with unique themes and styles when creating the idol. This year it was the idol depicting goddess Durga as a migrant mother carrying a young one in her arms, with two little girls walking by her side that won everyone’s heart.
The idol, created by Kolkata based artist Pallab Bhaumik, highlighted the plight of the migrant workers who were forced to walk thousands of kilometres to reach home from cities during the lockdown.
Devoid of vibrant colours, the ‘migrant’ Durga represents the hardships of a section of society who are usually forgotten after they make headlines, but such brilliant is this work that it appears to be more alive and grand than anything real.
Yet again it is the victorious, omniscient eyes of the goddess that say the most. She smiles for she is the witness of the on-going life drama.
The depiction of goddess Durga as a ‘migrant mother’ then could not be more apt because a labourer is also closest to the raw life drama which we all on the contrary love to refine before consuming.
And it must be a fierce conviction to win that fuelled the hearts of the migrant mothers and their faith in life that encouraged them to complete the tiring journeys. Because if not honest hope, what could be behind their unswerving patience and perseverance?
They will win in their journeys, everyone who creates something will win, for every action is an oblation, it is life and the wondrous Durga, its symbol.
Listen to the astounding Aigiri Nandini, sung in honour of goddess Durga –
- Ninety-Nine Times out of a Hundred
- A Telltale Heart’s Secret
- The Drifting Montages
- Sharpening the Lens Cavafy Style
- Shubhasya Shighram – A Pocket Sized Mantra