Tuesday, 20 October, 2009

Missing out on celebrations....

I was sad missing out on celebrating kali pujo/diwali and then bhaiphota/bhaiduj. This is what I hate about staying abroad, the dates just merge into one another and the festivals just become a face book status message. You call home only to miss home all the more. Diwali night I stood at our window a long time, there were occasional crackers in the sky. Flashes of past diwali kept coming back.

Ever since I have grown up I don't much enjoy crackers. They are bad polluters. But cut out the crackers and I love Kali pujo (worship) nights. Bengalis worship Ma Kali the day before diwali day and does the rest of bursting crackers and decorating their houses with candles and lamps. Two days before the Kali pujo there is the night when you have to light seven candles and then the evening before Kali pujo fourteen candles. This is done to scare away ghosts. It is believed that Ma Kali is the violent avatar of Ma Durga and she got so mad that she was dancing naked with human skulls. Her dancing was about to bring an end to this world so Lord Shiva her husband had to lie down, she stepped on him and like a good Hindu wife, felt deeply ashamed and her tongue sticks out as a reaction of her shame and of course her mad dancing stops and the world is not destroyed. Bengalis have captured this naked goddess with her hair open, skulls in hand, tongue sticking out standing on her husband pose and this is the idol we worship on the day of Kali pujo. According to folklore demons and ghosts accompany her when she comes to the earth to be worshipped. Hence all the light and the crackers to drive the demons away.

In my childhood there was a certain thrill about this pujo. You never know which demon or ghost would choose to visit you or your house. Elders would add to the mystery and tell stories from the past. I remember pestering my father for these stories and as the stories unfolded my eyes would almost pop out and shivers would go down my spine. So the night of the pujo is always associated in my mind with an anticipation-- an anticipation of the evil....I almost waited for the worst to happen but it never did. From my childhood I remember going cracker shopping with my father...there were certain grown up crackers and certain kid crackers. Amongst us cousins and friends a competition would start as to who could burst the grown up crackers. It was the opportunity to show how brave and grown up you were, no place for the weak hearted. Once I grew up, my brother and then my cousins continued this cracker excitement business. The last time I was home, my young cousin of about 7 years got a huge load of crackers but was scared stiff to burst them. So instead my dad ended up bursting the crackers!

The day after kali pujo, North Indians celebrate as diwali or the festival of lights with all that cracker bursting. This is followed by bhaiphota/bhai duj, this is a festival where sisters pray for long life of brothers/cousins. During the ceremony brothers sit on a small mat on the floor, while sisters arrange a plate of sweet meats and another with chandan/sandalwood paste, there is a small poem that the sisters chant while they put a chandan tikka on the forehead of their brothers. It is a sweet festival, in my house it is a major celebration where the whole family (about 60 odd people) gather and gifts are exchanged among brothers and sisters. Oh grand daughters pray for long life of grandfathers while grandmothers do the same for their grandsons. It is one of my favourite celebrations, a day you earmark for your family.
The photograph displayed at the beginning of the post was taken from the following site-- http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/cc78/myscrado/durga/pkl_03.jpg


  1. Wow...what a beautiful post Suchi. It was a learning too. Next Kali Pujo, I am sending my girls to your father. For all those stories and the experience....

  2. Hey Sush,

    I completely forgot to wish you!!!!

    HAPPY DIWALI for Sunday, and a very prosperous new year

  3. Thanks Muthu, my dad would love to have your daughters. He loves children and is a great story teller....

  4. Thanks Jell for the diwali wishes and for the compliment on my marriage look :)))))))))))


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