Thursday, October 21, 2004

bijoya dasami

Bijoya Dasami is the last day of celebrations.

Godess Durga departs for her own house in the mountains of the Himalayas. The pandals are deserted and people move around aimlessly, looking crestfallen - even, the shine on the faces of the clay idols appear dull. The rituals of this day are the darpan bisarjan followed by the sindoor utsav. The sindoor utsav is for the married women. Sindoor (red vermillion powder) is an auspicious item for any Bengali married woman – it is normally applied on the ‘sinthee’ (the parting of the hair on the forehead). In the sindoor utsav, these women apply sindoor on the sinthee of the Godess Durga and then on the sinthees of all women assembled. While performing this ritual, each and everyone sends a silent prayer to God Almighty to bless them so that this mark of happiness is never obliterated and remains a faithful companion until the dying day! (Application of sindoor ceases from the instant a woman becomes a widow – hence, this silent prayer.)

After the sindoor utsav, the idols are loaded on to suitable vehicles and taken to the immersion spot in a procession. On the banks of the river or lake or pond, the youngsters carry out aarati and burn firecrackers to extend the celebrations as long as possible. But, all good things have to come to an end! Hence, after immersion, the people return to the empty pandal and exchange greetings – the younger do ‘pronams’ of their elders by stooping down and touching their feet. The elders return the gesture by blessing the younger ones. Those of the same age group do ‘kola- kuli’- they hug and embrace each other. The last item on the agenda is the exchange of sweets.

This exchange of sweets was what Bijoya was all about - an activity we used to look forward in our childhood. It may be hard to believe but, from the day following the immersion, the children would assemble at one spot and then move from one house to another – never wanting to miss out on the different types of sweets and snacks that our neighbors would keep ready for us. Then would follow the comparisons of what one Aunty had done and what another Aunty tried to do but failed!! In those days, unlike today, children were encouraged to learn about the world from first hand experience and not become bookworms like today.

For those friends and relatives who live out of town or are settled abroad, Bijoya greeting cards used to be sent. Now, however, it is all through the electronic medium – e-greetings, e-cards etc.. Some enterprising individuals have shortened the process still further via ‘SMS’. Things today have become instant; we have lost the person to person touch. Things have become impersonal; we do our duty as if in a trance.

In other parts of the country, Bijoya Dasami is the day of burning effigies of Ravana, the ten headed demon King. Signifying the triumph of good over evil, huge effigies of Ravana are built in prominent locations. These are decorated with concealed crackers, rockets and other such items. Once a signal is given, a wick is lighted and, in the fraction of a second, the beautifully constructed effigy catches fire and the fireworks start going off.

For the Bengalis, it was Godess Durga’s victory over the Asura, for others it was Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana. The hidden message in both cases is that of the triumph of good over evil!!