Oc­to­ber 9–19, 2018

Asian Geographic - - South Asia -

Durgapuja cel­e­brates the vic­tory of the god­dess Durga over an evil buf­falo de­mon with her di­vine fem­i­nine en­ergy, called shakti. This ar­rest­ing scene is re­pro­duced on pan­dals across Bangladesh’s Hindu com­mu­nity, de­pict­ing Durga seated on a lion, slay­ing the de­mon, sur­rounded by her hus­band and four chil­dren. These pan­dals – mo­bile tem­ples made of bam­boo and colour­ful cloth (of­ten em­bel­lished with great cre­ative liberty) – house a tableau of idols made by ar­ti­sans over four months with clay, glass or other ma­te­ri­als.

The paint­ing of Durga’s eyes is left un­til last, and com­pleted in a rit­ual called Chokkhu Daan, which pre­cedes the 10-day fes­ti­val of fast­ing and feast­ing. What be­gan as a sim­ple cel­e­bra­tion has evolved into fierce com­pe­ti­tion be­tween neigh­bour­hoods to out­match one an­other with lav­ish dec­o­ra­tions and themes. It is also com­mon to go “pan­dal hop­ping”.

Dur­ing the first five days, devo­tees pray to Durga at home. A young vir­gin girl is also cho­sen among the com­mu­nity and be­comes a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the god­dess af­ter a spe­cial rit­ual. Wor­ship­ping this Ku­mari Puja is be­lieved to im­prove a woman’s di­vin­ity, as the pure child en­cap­su­lates the fem­i­nine pow­ers of cre­ation and sta­bil­ity. The last day sees the pan­dals car­ried in pro­ces­sions of fren­zied singing, dancing and drum­ming. The idols are im­mersed in wa­ter to rep­re­sent Durga’s re­union with her hus­band, and mar­ried women anoint their faces with crim­son pow­der as a prayer for long life and pros­per­ity.


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