Timeless Durga Puja Gets Intangible World Heritage Status

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Timeless Durga Puja Gets Intangible World Heritage Status

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“India is the cradle of civilization” – Mark Twain

Image: Prasanta Kr DUtta
Image: Prasanta Kr Dutta

The first thought that comes to the mind while reading this quote from Mark Twain  is “mother” who is so intimately connected with cradle . Mothers have a special place in the emotions of everyone. But, in India those emotions take on much higher level.

In India the ecosystem and biosphere is called Mother Nature. India hosts an annual festivity for the celebration of spiritual force and even feminine virtues. That brings us to the the festivity of spiritualism known as Navratri or Durga Puja.  Navratri means a series of nine nights where the feminine spiritual force is celebrated as Goddess Mother or Divine Mother. India represents the merger of Nature, Spirituality and Mother’s love. 

The process of making idols for Durga Puja begins with sourcing of clay mud from the river Ganges. The river is highly revered as pure and divine by the Indian culture. These clay idols are noted for symmetry, proportion and balance. The most important artistic rendition is the creation and painting of eyes, which put “life” in the idols. This takes place during Mahalaya, which is the fortnight before Navratri, observed in reverence for ancestors and departed souls.

After Navratri celebrations are over, on tenth day known as Dussehra, the idols are immersed in the river Ganges. The idols being made of clay, assimilate in the ecosystem of the river. The natural element used in the making of the idols – clay, returns to its source! It gives the message of homecoming – returning to one’s roots, the nature.

Many of the pandals or stage where the idols are worshipped carry a theme. It usually carries a message to the society or displays art and culture of India. The festivals bring together the various classes and masses of the society on a common platform, giving the message of equality and brotherhood.

The festival coincides with the harvest season. Strands of grain, farm produce and ancillary products form a part of the rituals. It makes up as a Thanksgiving to the Mother Nature for the bounty of agricultural produce. It also sensitizes humans to live in sync with Nature and take care of it.

To recognize the intangible connections between Science, Culture and Nature UNESCO has granted Intangible Cultural Heritage status to Durga Puja.

While it is celebrated in various forms across the length and breadth of India, in Bengal, this festival is particularly most revered of all other festivals and encompasses every other event and routine for the nine days and nights. The tradition of celebrating Durga Pujo as it is known in Bengal, is particularly special on final three nights of the Navratri. The three forms of Goddess Mother are worshipped together as Saraswati, Laxmi and Durga. Saraswati is Goddess of knowledge and learning, Laxmi is the Goddess of prosperity and wealth, and Durga is the fierce aspect of the Goddess which eliminates evil and upholds the virtuous. It is an apt rendition of the laws of Nature which teaches us a righteous way of living, showers us with abundance of bountiful produce and balances the actions of humans.

While the tradition of worship is believed to be thousands of years old, the earliest recorded history sources are available since 14th century. There are plenty of primary historical resources available from 16th century.

India has in recent times has been undergoing a cultural renaissance and recognition from the world. This has been more emphatic and notable since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014. The world has been increasingly showing affinity and curiosity to India’s cultural and spiritual heritage in recent decade.

The recognition of Durga Puja will definitely add to India’s recognition for its knowledge system, as a cultural and spiritual hub of the world. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has begun to assert its unique and indigenous culture and knowledge to the world. India is fast emerging as a financial and political superpower in the world. The roots of this ability are rooted in its age-old culture and knowledge.

The intangible heritage status will reaffirm India’s position as the beacon holder to the world in this millennium. The Indian Culture, its traditions and rituals are not superstitions, as is often misconstrued. They have been steeped in spirituality and living in sync with Nature.

India, a land of saints and spiritual personalities, has much more to offer to the world when it comes to balancing spirituality and material pursuits.

Durga Puja will add a new dimension and depth to this renewed identity of India as a spiritual and cultural leader in this world.

Under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who never shies away from portraying his devotion and spiritual tendencies to the world, Durga Puja is just the beginning of recognition of India’s vast and stellar cultural icons.

India is a powerhouse of many such rituals and traditions which can be a guiding light to the world which is finding it difficult to find the balance between humans and nature.


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