TODAY -

Durga Puja celebration in Manipur

Dr Oinam Ronnie Chanu *

 Durga Puja at Thangal Bazaar, Imphal :: October 23 2012
Durga Puja at Thangal Bazaar, Imphal on October 23 2012 :: Pix - Banti Phurailatpam



As per the Meitei calendar, the celebration of Hindu festival of Durga Puja in Manipur coincides with the duration from the 7th to the 10th day of the Meitei month of Mera (September/October). L. J. Singh (1993: 28) claims that the festival of Durga Puja was started in Manipur on 10/11/1874 during the reign of King Chandrakriti.

Sairem Nilbir (1991: 123) also states that the worship of Durga Puja was introduced in Manipur in the second half of the 19th century during the reign of King Chandrakriti. These claims support the view that this Hindu festival, which is one of the biggest festivals in West Bengal, was also started in the wake of conversion in Manipur.

Unlike the way Durga Puja is celebrated with much pomp and grandeur in West Bengal, it is celebrated in a much simpler way at the homesteads of the Meitei Hindus.

There is a very interesting tradition to celebrate Puja mostly by small kids at the porch of their homes and by young boys in groups either at the porch or outhouses of their homesteads. Poster of Durga pasted in a dol (a small wooden cot designed with cornice to fix the poster) is kept inside the small hut made of branches of trees.

Daily offerings are made during the festival. The offerings generally include attires of the Goddess, vermillion, leaves of Wood Apple, Kang Mapan, a bunch of paddy, betel leaves and areca nuts, banana, flowers, local sweets along with incense sticks and candles, token money etc.

On Bijayadashami, the last day, the small dol, materials used to make the hut and all the offerings are thrown in a water body.

Another aspect of the festival is the special offerings made to the Goddess by married women usually on the right foot of the entrance door of their houses at dusk on the day when the Goddess is believed to enter their houses, which marks the commencement of the festival.

What is interesting is that, this aspect reflects their pre-Hindu style of worshipping deities at sacred spaces without any concrete symbols to represent the deities.

It also reflects the declining importance of the pre-Hindu deity, Thonggarel whose abode is the very space where the offerings to he Goddess are being made.

he pre-Hindu religious practice of linking 'position' with 'space', that is, the essence of associating the 'right' side for male deity is being challenged when a female Hindu deity is worshipped at this particular site, even though it is only during the Durga Puja.

It is necessary to note here that not only during Durga Puja, some of the Meitei Hindu families begin to treat this particular site as the abode of Goddess Luxmi.

During Durga Puja, on the day of Mahaasthami, there is a popular tradition of visiting the shrine of pre-Hindu female deity, Hiyangthang Lairembi, which had been identified with Kamakhya Devi by Shanti Das during the propagation of Ramanandi religion in the 18th century.

During Durga Puja, married daughters do not enter their natal places. Locals believe that when the Goddess comes to earth, which is her home once a year during the festival, she does not like to see married daughters in their natal places. Therefore, she causes harm to these women.

Some even narrate stories of how their relatives or acquaintances get injured when they visited their natal places during the festival.

In Manipur today, during Durga Puja, there is also a rising revivalist trend of worshipping Goddess Panthobi. Eminent revivalist scholars such as Kangjia Mangang (2010), Sairem Nilbir (1991) etc. have opined that this trend has been practicing since the 1960s.

Whether it is Durga or Panthoibi, what is more important is that for the Meiteis, this is a festive time, a time to get closer to the sacred, a time of joy and celebration.


* Dr Oinam Ronnie Chanu wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at ronoinam17(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on October 20, 2018.



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