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KALABOU

Popularly known as Lord Ganesh's wife, Kalabou in reality has no relationship with Ganesh. Our scriptures call her Nabapatrika. Interestingly enough, Nabapatrika was actually a popular ritual performed by the peasant folks for prosperous harvest. As idol worship was not common then, people worshipped Mother Nature. It was during the Autumn (Sarat), the time for reaping crops "Amondhan"; peasants worshipped Goddess Nabapatrika for good harvest. Later, when Durga Puja became a popular festival of "Sarat", all the nine holy rituals of the Nabapatrika, were added to the ceremonies of Durga Puja. In fact, Nabapatrika represented the primitive form of Durga Puja. This primitive form of worship is still prevalent in some places.

NABA-PATRIKA : The nine plants comprising Nabapatrika are

Banana plant "Kala Gaach"
Colacassia plant "Kochu Gaach"
Turmeric plant "Halud Gaach"
Jayanti tree
Wood apple tree "Bel Ghaach"
Pomegranate tree "Daalim Gaach"
Arum plant "Maankochu"
Rice plant
Ashoka tree


Nabapatrika, being an important part of Durga Puja, is worshipped during Bodhon. The nine plants of Nabapatrika represent the nine Goddesses. The Banana plant or the "Kola Gaach" represents Goddess Brahmani, Colacassia plant represents Goddess Kalika, Turmeric plant symbolizes Devi Durga, Jayanti denotes Kartiki, Bel or Wood Apple denotes Lord Shiva, Pomegranate (Dalim Gaach) Raktadantika, Ashoka tree symbolizes Sokrahita and Arum plant ("Maankochu") represents Chamunda and the Rice plant Goddess Lakshmi. These Goddesses are the nine forms of Devi Durga.


KUMARY PUJA

Goddess Durga arrives to her earthly abode with her four children, Laskhmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh. We worship her as the Goddess of Shakti who overpowered evil to reestablish peace and prosperity on earth. She is also the daughter making her yearly visit to her parents place along with her children for four days. The Goddess is worshipped in various forms during her stay here. One of those forms is the "Kumari", the Virgin form. This mould is the most powerful form of Mahashakti.

A girl aged between one to sixteen, symbolizing the Kumari form of Devi, is worshipped in front of the idol of Goddess Durga. The Kumari form of the Goddess was emphasized as the most dynamic form by the devotees since yester years as Kumari Shakti is the basis of all creations. Our scriptures have emphasized Kumari Puja particularly to evoke purity and divinity of the women of the society. Diminishing the larger-than-life stature of the Goddess to someone much nearer and closer is the real reason for this form of worship. Sri Ramakrishna had said that Kumari is another form of Devi Durga and he himself worshipped Sarada Ma as Kumari. To imagine the Goddess in the mould of a Kumari is an age-old concept. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna had performed Kumari Puja. The Puranas mention the Kumari form of Chandika.

SELECTION OF KUMARI

The scriptures mention the great care with which the Kumari is selected to be worshipped as the earthly representative of Devi Durga. The quality required in the girl has to match the dynamism, purity and serenity of the Goddess. A calm, serene and an unmarried girl with a bright disposition between one to sixteen years, who has not yet reached her puberty and is bereft of desire, worldly pleasures and anger is the right requisite for the Kumari Puja. Depending on the age of the girls they are worshipped in the various forms of the Goddess. A one-year-old girl is worshipped in the Sandhya form of the Devi while a two year old is worshipped in the Saraswati form of the Devi. A three year old girl is worshipped in the Tridha form of Durga and a four year old is worshipped in the Kalika form of the Devi. Subhaga and Uma are the forms of Durga for a five and a six year old respectively. Malini form of the Goddess represents a seven year old while Kujjika represents an eight-year-old girl. Kalsondarbha and Aparajita stand for a ten year old girl and an eleven-year-old girl. Bhairavi is represented by a twelve-year-old girl and Mahalakhmi by a thirteen-year-old girl. Pitnayika, Khetragya and Ambika by a fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year old girl respectively.


SANDHI PUJA

An integral and important part of Durga Puja, Sandhi Puja is performed at the juncture of the 8th and 9th lunar day. Sandhi puja lasts from the last 24 minutes of Ashtami till the first 24 minutes of Nabami. During this juncture (the "Sandhikhan"), Durga is worshipped in her Chamunda form. Devi Durga killed Chando and Mundo, the two asuras at "Sandhikhan" and thus acquired the name of "Chamunda".

The myth behind Goddess Durga being worshipped as Chamunda: While the Goddess and Mahishasura were engaged in a fierce battle, the two generals of Mahisha, Chando and Mundo, attacked the Devi from the rear. Goddess Durga appeared to them as a brilliantly glowing woman with her hair knotted on her head, a crescent moon above her forehead, and a 'tilak' on her forehead and a garland around her neck. With golden earrings and clad in a yellow sari she emitted a golden glow. Her ten hands possessed ten different weapons. Though she appeared beautiful her face turned blue with anger when she faced Chondo and Mundo. From her third eye then emerged a Devi with a large falchion and a shield. She had a large face, bloody tongue and sunken blood shot eyes. She was Chamunda. With a bloodcurdling shriek she leapt forward and killed them. This moment was the juncture of the 8th and 9th lunar day.

Long back the devotees used different methods in order to perform the Sandhi Puja at the exact juncture. With the last 24 minutes of the Ashtami Puja still left, a bronze bowl with a tiny hole was placed in a bucket full of water. The bowl with the tiny hole was made in such a way that it took exactly 24 minutes for the bowl to submerge in the water. The moment the bowl submerged in the water cannon balls were fired announcing this moment of Sandhi Puja. This yardstick for measuring the "Sandhikhan" was very popular.

Sandhi Puja requires 108 lotus flowers, a single fruit, dry rice grain for "noibiddo", 108 earthen lamps, clothes, jewelry, hibiscus garlands and wood apple (bel) leaves. The almost non-existent rituals, which underwent changes with changes in the society, can still be seen in some of the 200-250-year-old Pujas.


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