A club in Salt Lake has walked off the beaten track this Durga Puja to spread the message of communal harmony. Among the five ‘kumaris’ worshipped at Bidhannagar Ramakrishna Vivekananda Kendra on Ashtami was five-year-old Alia Parveen, a student of Bidhannagar Ramakrishna Vivekananda School in Salt Lake.
Chanchal De, president of the DD Block centre, said: “This Ashtami was very special because we could include Alia Parveen, who is from a different religion, as one of the five ‘kumaris’ worshipped at our Duga Puja. This way, we tried to spread the message of inclusiveness and communal harmony.”
Worshipping pre-puberty girls as goddess Durga is one of the main rituals of the festival. According to the tradition, only Brahmin girls are chosen as ‘kumaris’.
Worshipping Muslim ‘kumaris’ in Durga Puja is not new, though. On August 18, 1898, Swami Vivekananda had worshipped a four-year-old Kashmiri Muslim girl as the goddess during Kumari Puja at the Kheer Bhawani temple in Srinagar. In 1901, he had introduced Kumari Puja at the Ramakrishna Math and Mission headquarters of Belur Math.
Alia’s mother’s Zeenat Begum, who was at the Puja venue, said: “We were rather surprised when my daughter’s teachers first sought our permission about her participation in the Kumari Puja. We didn’t know what to say initially, but the teachers convinced us and we agreed.”
A K Chatterjee, an engineer from FD Block, was elated with the idea. “I think it was very noble to come up with this great initiative at this hour of social unrest and communal tension. I have heard of Muslims taking part in Durga Puja but this is the first time I could be part of a Muslim-origin ‘kumari’ being worshipped. The experience will be etched in my memory forever,” he said.
Echoed Banani Sen, another Salt Lake resident, “The deity is the mother of all gods. She’s also the mother of all humans, irrespective of their religion, caste and creed. It’s only natural that a Muslim girl or any other ‘kumari’ — belonging to any other religion — should be worshipped. Unfortunately people can’t think on these simple lines.”
Source: Times of India