Kolkata, Oct 2 :
Devotees converged at the Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission for Kumari Puja, the worship of a girl as the Durga Puja carnival reached its climax in West Bengal with Mahashtami and Mahanavami merging Thursday.
The generally five-day carnival, shortened to a four-day affair this year as decreed by the almanac, is being celebrated across the state with everyone joining in with enthusiasm and religious fervour.
Mahashtami ended Thursday noon and the Mahanavami puja began after the end of Sandhi Puja held at the confluence of Mahashtami (eighth lunar day) and Mahanavami (ninth lunar day). Mahanavami will end Friday morning.
An ambience of merriment prevailed over the entire city as devotees dressed in their best offered anjali (floral offerings) to goddess Durga amid heavy beats of drums, chimes of bells and twinkling lamps (diyas).
The rituals began in the morning with Kumari Puja where girls are worshipped as the goddess.
Belur Math in Howrah district, 10 km from Kolkata, saw a huge gathering. Kumari Puja was started by Swami Vivekananda in 1901 to underline the importance of women in the society.
The girl who is worshipped symbolises the power that regulates creation, stability and destruction on the earth.
The young girl fasts until the puja is over. She is made to sit before the goddess’s idol on a decorated chair with priests chanting hymns and drums being played in the background.
After the puja, the divinity of the goddess descends into the girl, said a priest.
As per Hindu mythology, goddess Durga killed Chando and Mundo, two demons at the confluence (Sandhi) of Mahashtami and Mahanavami.
People gorged on the Ashtami staple of luchi-aludum (flat-bread and pressure-cooked spicy potatoes) or khichuri (dish made from lentils with cauliflower).
Upholding tradition, the nine manifestations of the goddess – Durga, Jayanti, Mangola Kali, Bhadra Kali, Kapalini, Kshama Dhatri, Siva, Svaha and Svadha – were also offered tributes.
Pandal-hoppers made a beeline for marquees like the one resembling the famed Madan Mohan brick temple in West Bengal’s Bankura district.
Erected at the FE Block puja in Salt Lake, the attention to details fascinated visitors.
Another draw was the Bosepukur Sitala Mandir marquee where artificial biscuits, fabricated out of clay, made people aware about food security and availability of essential food grains to all classes. The Hindu goddess of nourishment, Annapurna, is the basis of the display.