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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Impassioned five-day celebration

Kolkata lends itself to melancholia with remarkable ease. Its buildings tell stories,the serpentine lanes seduce you.

Written by Premankur Biswas |
October 9, 2011 2:35:50 am

Every year goddess Durga rises from the banks of Ganga and sashays her way back to her heavenly abode

Kolkata lends itself to melancholia with remarkable ease. Its buildings tell stories,the serpentine lanes seduce you. But if you want to immerse yourself in unadulterated melancholy,you should visit the ghats on Dashami.

It’s the time when goddess Durga sashays her way to her heavenly abode. Sashay itself is such a beautiful word. An approximation of sorts,but poetically apt to describe the act. More so,when you appropriate it to the dramatic shuffle of feet that lead Ma Durga to her watery abode. The sweat and blood of the labouring mortals who carry her on their shoulders may dribble into the mud and slush of the ghats,but she “sashays” her way to the Ganga.

Meanwhile,the ghats throb with a schizophrenically impassioned celebration. It’s a celebration which swings between almost animal-like abandonment and nostalgia-hued mellowness. Middle-aged men in sweat-drenched kurtas wriggle their hips to the dhak,as their vermilion streaked wives in garod saris smile indulgently. Foreigners in three-quarters capture the sights and the sounds in their handycams,while scrawny kids in ragged knickers wait patiently beside them to collect the clothing and ornaments of the immersed idol.

Para kakus haggle with the dhakis who have led the visarjan procession. Wiry,colourful balloons find their way into the picture as do shiny,paper whistles. Deployed policemen leer at the women dancing to the beats of dhak,inebriated youths leer at them,too. They worm their way closer to them (the youths,not the policemen). That’s when the men-folk decide that it’s time to huddle the women back to their respective trucks and matadors. At a quiet corner of the ghat,a frail old lady in a white tant sari,is paying her respect to the goddess before fetching some Ganga water in her empty soft-drink bottle.

Asche bochchor abar hobe. Surely it’s more than just a mnemonic gesture,her sashaying to the Ganga? It has to be a metaphor. Of life’s cycle maybe?

Yes,at the heart of this five-day celebration lies a simple story of circularity. The idol,moulded out of clay scooped out from these very ghats,finds its way to banks of the Ganga. Her adornments,the bamboo skeleton are to be filtered out by those who make fringe-living out of this procedure. How exquisitely beautiful is this story. How poignant is Ma Durga’s yearly rise from the banks of Ganga and eventual submission to it.

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