Kumari Puja marks Maha Ashtami in Bengal
Pre-pubescent girls were worshipped as goddesses across West Bengal Saturday. Devotees gathered at Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission near here for Maha Ashtami celebrations, part of Durga Puja festivities.
The ritual of Kumari puja, a significant part of Maha Ashtami worship, was started in 1901 by the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission (RMRM), Swami Vivekananda.
An unmarried girl between one to sixteen years in age, who has not yet reached puberty and is bereft of desire, worldly pleasures and anger, is selected for the ritual that highlights the importance of women.
West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan too was part of the large gathering at Belur Math in Howrah district, about 10 km from the state capital. The large gathering of devotees from across the world watched in awe as monks carried out the ritual.
Depending on their age, the girls are worshipped in the various forms of the goddess.
Seven-year-old Kankana Chakrabarty was chosen as the Kumari Saturday and worshipped in the "Malini" form of the goddess.
At break of dawn, the Kumari was bathed in Ganga water, draped in a red sari, adorned with flowers and jewellery, with a "sindur (vermillion) tilak" applied on her forehead.
The young Kumari fasts the whole day until the puja is over. She is made to sit before the goddess's idol on a decorated chair with priests chanting hymns and dhak (traditional drum) being played in the background.
According to religious belief, after the puja, the divinity of the goddess descends into the Kumari.
Kumari puja was also conducted at many other community pandals and traditional households across the state where Durga puja is organised.
(Posted on 12-10-2013)