Being an East Indian girl, I have always crazed for Durga Puja. I took 4 days leave to visit my native place during the occasion this time. Durga Puja is one of the biggest festivals of Assam after Bihu, which is celebrated for 5 days (from Sasthi to Dashami) across the state. I was very excited to visit my hometown as I was going to meet my family members after 3 long months since I have joined India Fellow. In the train, I met an uncle from north India who works in the defense department. In our conversations, he raised few interesting points regarding Durga Puja celebration which I could not deny.
Uncle said “there are so many well-educated people in this area but why they waste countless money in the name of Durga Puja pandals and decorations instead of giving food and shelters to poor? I have seen so many pandals where lots of money gets spent on decoration but when you walk inside those temples, you will not find prasad”.
My response was “Yes, I agree with your point uncle, we Indians, spend lots of money on celebrating festivals and rituals, which are the unproductive expense for the country. Not only in Assam and West Bengal but in all parts of India we spend numerous amount of money on celebrating festivals like Durga Puja/Dusshera, Diwali etc; and on many rituals of marriages”.
Uncle replied, “I agree with you, we spend lots of money on the wedding too, just to show off our social status and compete with others.”
He added “I cannot also understand why the customs of the sacrifice of animals (bali) is still going on during Durga Puja. We call goddess Durga our Maa then do you think any mother can ask for blood from her children?”
I said with a nod “I do not even support this very custom. These customs are man made, which we are following from centuries, human beings are the meat eater, so they worship their god accordingly”.
The conversation influenced me deeply – when I entered Guwahati I saw beautiful big Durga Puja pandals with colorful decorations and at the same place, I noticed few people sleeping on the footpath. I got a very strange and dreadful feeling and felt helpless. People are spending abundant money on decoration and on the idol of Durga while at the same place on the other hand … Nowadays Durga Puja committees are spending abundant money to get prizes in decoration completion. I have few questions:
1. Did goddess Durga say anyone that goddess will be satisfied only if we worship with a 2 Lakh rupees Idol (murti)?
2. Did goddess Durga say, anyone, that she will be satisfied only if people spend crores of rupees on decoration?
3. Did goddess Durga really want animals’ blood to get her power?
The purposes of my questions are not to hurt any religious belief and emotion but to understand people’s base of belief. Hindu scriptures such as the Gita and some Puranas forbid animal sacrifice. But, I have another question if eating fish, chicken, mutton, pork by Hindus and beef by Muslim are not regarded as a crime then why Bali is regarded as a crime? if human beings can eat meat then why god can not want meat? and if it is a crime then all human being on this earth should become vegetarian. The practice of bali is still going on because human beings love to worship their god in this way. Is it because human being thinks themselves supreme of all living being on this earth and they have got all the right to eat the flesh of another living being. I always imagine what would be the reverse of the story? Suppose all cats, dogs, cows, goats, pigs etc. in the universe attack human beings and start to eat human beings. :p. Maybe this would be tough for animals as human beings are more powerful than them, but human being should also realize that power comes with responsibility and it the responsibility of human being to protect other living being on this earth too.
Likewise, the story of the other side in Durga Puja decoration is also different. All human beings on this earth want to be happy and these festivals’ celebration brings happiness in their lives. Rich people find happiness by spending money while poor people get the happiness by watching the spending. So, where is the problem if all people are getting happiness out of it?Nowadays puja committees are also trying to give social messages through their decorations and because of this decoration, many people are earning their livelihood; many artists are getting their source of living too. Ultimately the money is going to someone’s hand, with which he or she can survive.
PS: I feel like every coin has two sides, our understanding should also come from different sides. I cannot say what act is right or what act is wrong but introspection is the need of an hour.
Few Photographs of Durga puja celebration in Assam:
Durga Puja celebrations in Tezpur, Assam. PC : Bhaben Medhi
Picture: Rehabari Bilpar, Guwahati, Assam. Theme: Nature is also like goddess Durga, Nature can protect herself and also destroy people if they destroy nature. #natureconservation