By MAITHILI BISNE :
Jagdamb Vichitramatra Kim
Paripoorna Karunaasti Chenmayi
Aparadha Parampara Param Na Hi
Mata Samupekshate Sutam II
(O Mother of the world Jagdamba! You are the one who looks
after Her children. Your love and kindness towards me is no surprise O Mother Goddess. Being a mother, You forget all our sins and
correct us without abandoning Your children)
I t is this unwavering faith in the Divine Mother that gives many of us the strength to keep striving in life inspite of failures, big or small. But then, it is probably also the blind faith among some of us that makes them commit sins sans any remorse. Clinging on to positivism, given the world that we live in today, we definitely need the former clan to grow stronger. And what better time to seek Ma Durga’s blessings than the Durgotsava. In a land brimming with festivals, there are none like the Durga Pujo or Navratri. It is like an annual tonic that amps up the energy level of devotees. A festival with a message, it reasserts the need to be in the right and underlines the pitiful fate all evil shall meet.
The grandiose pandals in which idols of the deity are installed, the religious rituals and social hustle-bustle around them, the garba and dandiya routines of Navratri that go hand-in hand and everything from fasting to feasting, there are celebrations galore. An important day in this festive itinerary is ‘Mahalaya’. It marks the beginning of Devi Paksha and the end of the Pitri Paksha, the latter being a period of mourning. ‘Mahalaya’ is considered to be the day when Goddess Durga begins her descent to Earth from Mount Kailash after having vanquished the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Emerged from the collective energies of all Gods, She brandishes the deadliest of weapons from each God in Her ten arms. She is accompanied by her children - Ganesha, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati. For the ‘Mahalaya’, Bengali households wake up before sunrise to the sounds of songs and mantras from the Devi Mahatmya (Chandi) scripture. On a normal year, the gap between Mahalaya and Mahashashthi is six days, but this year the Mahashashthi is falling on October 22. The 35-day gap is attributed to two new moons or amavasyas this time. The auspicious Devi Paksha began on October 17 this year. It is the first day of Sharadiya Navratri. The last day of Navratri would be October 25 that will be celebrated as Dussehra of Vijaya Dashmi. But can we talk about any occasion in 2020 without mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic and about how an infinitesimal virus has cast an evil spell on everything that was once ‘normal’.
Given the situation, celebrations are bound to be cut down this year. After the sudden spike in COVID cases in Kerala after Onam festivities, administrations are now treading cautiously, and rightly so. Apart from the Ghat Puja and basic ritualistic nitty-gritties, the festival has been robbed of its extravagance this year. The delectable aromas filling up pandals in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura, the swirling multi-coloured ghagras and the patter of dandiyas in Gujarat will be dearly missed. Not just in these States, at other places too, as the festival has its presence in varying degrees across the country. Restrictions apart, no one can debate the influence Durga Festival commands over its adherents. It gives the message of victory over evil. It also emphasises the extraordinary powers of the ‘Mahishasur Mardini’.
The Goddess? Yes, but also every woman that there is. Ma Durga is the divine embodiment of every woman and every mother just as every woman is the mortal reflection of ‘Shakti’. The Goddess, just like the birth-giver, is gentle and caring, protecting Her children from all things sinister. There seems to be only unending love in that heart. But if the need be, She can also reincarnate and roar and then pierce her wrath right through the demonic spirit that imperils Her children. With so much clamour and chaos around us today, when it has become difficult to quantify individual tragedies, we do need Her blessings. For when no light appears at the end of the tunnel, to smoothen out the creases in our combined existence, the world pins hopes on something superlative, something supernaturalthe Mother.