# Day 143 (Of festive rites and rituals)

Before we come to the third major legend associated with this nine day festive period, there is one more ritual widely followed in various forms in different parts of the country…the symbolic establishment of the goddess in the homes and the community. The Durga-Puja associated with Bengali culture has largely become a community affair, which besides its religious significance has now become an occasion for much gaiety and celebration of traditional culture and customs. Tableaux of the traditional icon of the goddess~a divine image of the goddess with ten arms each carrying their most lethal weapon and made in clay~are set up in ‘puja-pandals’. To truly appreciate the fervour and passion of this festivity one has to be in Kolkatta at this time and do some ‘pandal-hopping.’
In other regions, a sanctified space is created in the home and the Divine Mother is invited to stay and bestow her Grace on the devotees and their families. In some places a clay pot is installed (in a tradition known as ‘Ghatasthapana’) and a lamp is kept continuously lit inside it for 9 days. The belief is that the pot symbolises the universe and the ‘akhand-jyoti’ is the medium through which we seek to connect to the brilliant primordial energy of ‘Shakti’.
Another popular practice involves the sowing of barley seeds in a clay pot on the first Navratra and placing it in the prayer-room in the house. The seeds are watered for nine days so that they sprout; and the pot itself is worshipped for nine days. At the end of the Navratri on Dussehra, the pot with the sprouts are submerged in water. The custom also called “khetri” is probably a throwback to ancient fertility rites and in many houses the auspicious sprouts are distributed among family and friends as blessings from the goddess.
A Tamil friend recently shared how in their part of the country a similar custom involves building a rack of nine shelves of ‘kolu’ using wooden planks on the first Navratri (some establish it on ‘Mahalaya’, the day prior to the first Navratri). It is then covered with fabric and adorned with dolls and other toy figurines with the deities being placed at the top. A sacred lamp is lit in the middle of a ‘rangoli’. Friends and neighbors are invited to view the ‘kolu’ displays and devotional hymns are chanted. On the tenth day of Vijayadashmi the ‘kolu’ is dismantled and packed up for next year.
Historians attribute this use of clay to the agricultural economy of ancient India. Whether it is the Ganesha figures of the earlier Ganesh-festival or the Durga-statues, clay pots, divas etc that are used throughout the festive season that goes on till Diwali, the use of clay was imbued with a ‘sacred’ status. The theory is that in order to encourage dredging and de-silting of irrigation canals and river beds after the monsoons, the demand for clay was increased through its widespread use in such activities.


About sunsur81

A gatherer of thoughts...exploring myths,metaphors and expressions of life...
This entry was posted in 365 Days Blog-roll, Indian Accents, Matters of Faith and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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