At the entrance to Ramakrishna Math and Mission, a tall poster of Sister Nivedita greets every visitor who walks past the garden towards the Durga Puja hall. The five-day Durga Puja at RMM, has set the stage for commemorating the 125th birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, from October 28.
RMM’s decision to exhibit the works of Sister Nivedita through a year-long celebration is the highlight of the Durga Puja this time. The puja at Khar that started from September 25 will end on the day of Dussehra, September 30.
On Thursday, Ashtami was marked by a special annual ritual, Kumari Puja, where a girl child is worshipped.
The RMM Mumbai president, Swami Satyadevenanda, said: “The significance of Durga Puja lies in the worship of divine mother Shakti. The main message is the victory of good over evil. We all know the story about how goddess Durga killed the demon, Mahisasur, who had created havoc. In each of us, there lives God and demon. We have to fight to eliminate the evil within us and always strive towards goodness.”
Explaining the origins of the celebrations, Swami Satyadevananda said: “In October 1901, Swami Vivekananda started Durga Puja at Belur Math, the headquarters of the RMM. Over the years, several RMM centres across India started the celebrations.”
Speaking about RMM’s decision to highlight Sister Nivedita’s works, he said: “We want to present to the Generation Next the pioneering work in the field of girls’ education, women empowerment and national awakening selflessly done by Nivedita. She was a foreigner who left her country to work for India. Unfortunately, the current generation does not know much about her.”
Sister Nivedita was Scot-Irish and her name was Margaret Elizabeth Noble. After becoming a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, she was named Sister Nivedita.
Talking about the Durga Puja, the RMM Mumbai president said: “The plans start six to eight months in advance and each one’s role is defined. Almost 250 volunteers from different parts of the state park themselves well in advance to help during Durga Puja.”
On an average, 8,000-10,000 people visit the RMM Durga Puja every day. “Bhog” (khichuri) is cooked daily by the RMM volunteers.
According to a volunteer, they cook between 450 kg and 500 kg khichuri every day during the Durga Puja. “A team of dhakis (those playing drums) is a regular feature of the RMM puja. The temple complex is covered with a variety of flowers, including purple orchids, white lillies, marigolds and roses.