Rimli wont be able to go for pandal hopping today. Till last evening she covered baghbazar, Chaltabagan but today is different. She will wake up early in the morning, will take a shower and then get ready. It’s Ashtami and Kumari Pujo.
Kanjak / Kanya Pujan / Kumari Pujai – the mythological background
According to mythology, when Earth was attacked by the demon king Kalasura, the Gods in heaven approached Devi Durga for help. She took the form of a young girl and and killed Kalasura. If it’s Kumari Pujo in Bengal, then we have Kanjyak or Kanya Pujan, which is extremely popular in states like Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and others in North India belt. In this, nine girls who haven’t attained puberty are worshiped as nine avatars of Devi Durga. Puberty worship has been a common act in various other parts of the country also. In remote villages Orissa, a girl attaining a puberty is a huge festival. Kumari Pujai or worship of maidens is performed in various parts of South India.
Kumari Pujo, Swami Vivekananda and a Muslim Girl
In these times of unrest, the history of Swami Vivekananda and Kumari Pujo is worth revisiting. When Swami Vivekananda went for Amarnath visit, came back to Srinagar to rest for few days and from there, he went to Khsir Bhabani temple and there he chanced upon a Muslim girl whose father was a farmer. He worshiped the girl at the temple premises and even then, it was nit appreciated. Later in 1901, he started Kumari Pujo in Belur Math. In Ramkrishna Mission, the Kumari in Kumari Pujo is done in the name of Uma, one of the 9 avatars of Durga. It’s Uma, the daughter of Giriraj coming back home. The Puja involves all the rituals, including the pran protistha same as the one done for the idol.
Is the concern only about Brahmin? Puberty and purity ? Or something else ?
According to many, this is a regressive process for various reasons. One, in every place, it’s a Brahmin girl who can only be a Kumari for this Pujo. A conformation to the caste system which is looked down upon in all senses, many disconnect with this criteria. Some are hopeful that in the coming years, the Kumari can be anyone from any caste.The other main criteria for selection is the girl shouldn’t have attained puberty. The greatest gift and power which a woman possesses is the power to bear a child. This conforms to the ridiculed dictate of prohibiting women to take part in Pujas while they are having their periods. Why a menstruating woman be considered as impure ?
The worship of Woman and it’s time we change Putran dehi
In one of the anjalis for Durga Puja, Putran Dehi is chanted, which is asking for a son from the Goddess. Hasn’t time come to question that? I love this new concept and you can check out this campaign here (Link). There can be many distractors of the Kumari Pujo but it’s one of those rituals where you are worshiping a Girl in the form of a goddess, seeking her blessings. The family members touch her feet for blessings and her blessing is supposed to remove all dangers from the family. It’s time we ask for Santanan Dehi from the Goddess because either girl or boy does it make any difference? Kumari Pujo is one of those rituals which reinstates the value of women in society.
Brishti will be the mother goddess – Always
As I was typing the letters, Brishti my daughter woke up from her sleep. I hugged her and tucked her back to sleep. The theme of this writing kept lingering in my mind. Before or after Puberty, Brahmin or Kayasthya, married or living in, nothing can change her to be the divine power in our lives. An angel, a daughter, a mother for tomorrow, Tugga can be the best son but Brishti is a “daughter” and she is very very special. Let’s celebrate womanhood
Sharmistha Mukherjee Cheema from Janai Mukherjee Bari.
Ayandrali Dutta from Mullick Bari Barabazar.
Sanchari Sur Daw from the Daw Bari.
Thanks to Sanchari who allowed me to capture these shots from Daw Bari.
Thanks to Ranjini Guha, Associate professor of History and Professor Sushobhan Sengupta from Narendrapur Ramkrishna Mission who hared valuable input for this.
Will love to hear your views about Kumari Pujo ? Let me know ?
These images triggered me to write this –