Diwali or Deepawali, the Festival of Light and Prosperity is celebrated all over India with great pomp and show. In Bengal and in the North East, it is more popularly known as Kali Puja, where Goddess Kali is worshipped. Priyasha Bhattacharjee takes you through a long journey of her experience of celebrating this joyous festival, from a toddler to motherhood, from living in a small town in the North East to the IT Hub, Bangalore
The festival of shimmer and twinkling lights is Kali Puja. Goddess Kali is an angry version of Maa Durga – the Shakti. It is the festival of burning the evil and settling the truth and goodness.
Kali Puja is celebrated on the new moon day of the Hindu month Karthik. It is celebrated on the same day as Diwali when other regions worship the goddess Lakshmi. It’s the God’s lost battle with the Asuras, when Goddess Kali was born from the forehead of Goddess Durga.
Kali wielded to kill all the Asuras to save the earth. The killing increased Her bloodlust which took hold and she started killing anyone She felt has wrong. She could be finally stopped only by Lord Shiva who intervened and lay down in front of Her. In art, Kali is often depicted with Her tongue out when She realised She has stood on Lord Shiva and Her rage subsided.
Kali Puja is celebrated to seek the help of the goddess in destroying evil to get Her blessing for general happiness health wealth and peace.
I spent my childhood in a colony where every occasion was not only celebrated but also everyone out there contributed their time, their physical involvement, their devotion and their support.
The preparations starts just after the grand Lokkhi Puja. The excitement of participation and the sleepless night to decorate the Puja pandal is the best part of Kali Puja. The unlimited gossip and the laughter riot is the most memorable part of Kali Puja which I can vividly remember and rejoice.
Diwali is also known as Shyama Puja. It generally falls on Amavashya day which is regarded as the most auspicious day. While Bengali, Oriyas and Assamese worships goddess Kali on this day, the rest of India worships goddess Lakshmi on Diwali.
Goddess Kali is represented in the scriptures as a black woman with 4 arms. In one hand, She has the sword, in another the head of the giant She has slained .The other 2 hands are for Abhaya Mudra, the protection, and Varada Mudra for granting boons.
She wears a necklace of skulls and for earrings dead bodies. Her only clothing is a girdle of apron of human hands with Her tongue protruding from Her mouth. She has 3 eyes and Her face is red and She is standing with one foot on the thigh and another on the chest of Her husband Shiva.
The severed head and the sword are graphic representation of destruction that has taken place. She is termed as Digambara (clad in space) having the vast limitless space itself as Her only vesture. Her black colour represents the state where time, space and causation have disappeared.
Her apron of severed hand stands for potential energy and Her disheveled hair for Her untrammeled freedom. The position of Her body, standing on the chest of Shiva, according to mythology, tells us that when Her victory over the Asuras was won, she had danced for joy so furiously that the earth trembled beneath our weight. Shiva lay down among the slain on whom She was dancing, in order to absorb the shock into himself.
One of the most famous temple dedicated to goddess Kali is Kalighat Kali temple in Calcutta. Kalighat was the heart to sacred Kali on the on the banks of river Hoogli in the city of Calcutta . Thousands of pilgrims from all over India flocks to the Kalighat temple every year, praying to Her to solve all their problems. Kalighat is regarded as one of the 51 Shakti Peethas of India, where the various parts of Sati’s body are said to have fallen in course of Shiva’s Rudratandav.
Kalighat represents the site where the toes of the right foot of Dhakshayani or sati is associated with the destruction of Daksha sacrifice and the origin of the Shakti Peethas. Sati the wife of Shiva and the daughter of King Daksha, was married to Shiva against the wish of Her father.
When Daksha performed the yagna he invited all the gods except Shiva. Sati attended the yagna against the wish of Shiva and was insulted by Her father. Unable to bear the insult, Sati immolated Herself on the Yagna.
Crazed with grief Shiva picked up the half burnt body of Sati and danced the dance of destruction throughout the immerse. To stop this dance, Vishnu had to cut with his disc the body of sati who’s various parts fell at several spots all throughout India and formed the site of what we known as Shakti Peethas today .
Devotees initially discovered a Ray of light coming from the Bhagirathee river bed. Upon investigating its source, they came upon a piece of stone carved in the form of human toe. The image of Kali in the temples are unique unlike the other Kali images of Bengal.
It seems the present idol of touchstone was created by 2 saints Brahmanandagiri and Atmaramgiri. Goddess Kali holds a scimitar and a severed head of the Asura king Shumbha. The scimitar signifies divine knowledge and the asura head signifies human ego which must be slain by divine knowledge to attain moksha.
The other two hands signify blessings assuring Her devotees to protect and safeguard them. It is said human sacrifices were offered formerly to Kali ,though now they have been forbidden both by British law and Hindu scriptures .
However, Her devotees having faith in Her, have had their prayers answered. One of the greatest devotee of Kali was Sri Ramkrishna Paramhans. Kali Puja as Diwali is celebrated with lights and crackers .It is a day of rejoicing the victory of Goddess Kali over the Asuras and wickedness and ultimately the triumph of good over evil.
In Udaipur, Agartala, there is a famous Kali temple known as Mata Bari Tripureshwhwari temple. In Kali Puja, the temple is all decorated with lights and diyas. Thousands of people come to pay visit to this Kali temple and worship here. The town illuminates with nearly 13 to 14, 00, 000 lights.
I find Diwali very glittery and magical. There’s so much love and unity. Though in India there is no scarcity of festivals but the festive vibe of Kali Puja is something different. Everything seems to be shining like gold and diamond. Everywhere there is noise of bursting crackers, and from kids to elders, all are in a joyous spirit. Everybody is smiling and exchanging greetings with sweets and gifts.
I remember my childhood Diwali celebrations in Assam. Diwali celebration which was of 3 days, the magnificent 3 days of carefree excitement was memorable, going out to shop, purchasing dozens of crackers, coming home to keep them under sunlight so that every crackers burst loud and the thrill to see all our friends outside the house preparing to burst crackers, was spectacular.
Just after the Diwali was our half yearly exams but that never caused any hindrance in the Kali Puja spirit. The beautiful rangoli and the flower decorations was like a competition whose rangoli was the best. Generally, Kali Puja falls on late night that gave us enough time to burst crackers bringing empty bottles to burst the rockets and the wait to see rockets flying high is so much vivid in my memories
The initial enthusiasm with which we sat at night to see the Kali Puja would gradually dissipate and we would start getting bored and sleepy but once the sound of nonstop bursting crackers started, we used to be overwhelmed with energy.
The beauty of the Diwali night is like a beautiful bride all decked up with precious jewelleries. All the streets and the lanes used to be reflecting lights of joy and the entire city was embellished with lights of hope and protection from Maa Kali. All markets are full of rush, people are busy doing their last moment shopping.
These days everything has become highly commercialized that the purity and the essence of our innocent yester years Diwali is somewhat lost. It is more of expensive gifts and sweets that has taken away the true smile and spirit of Diwali.
Due to excessive burning of crackers considering the pollution, there is a ban in firework. Still without burning crackers, Diwali seems so incomplete.
There is one thing which is my favourite is meeting my childhood friends and school mates Diwali and such occasions gives reason to meet and greet people else in such busy schedule it has become a big task to meet people .
I long for Kali Puja of my childhood days where lighting of small diyas and candles, cleaning the house just before the Puja which has now taken a back seat. Small Led lights have taken its place .
The excitement of lightening the Diyas and candles was no less than getting a reward. Our Kali Puja was no less than a marriage party. In Kali Puja, the bhog is irresistible and tempting. Some gives veg which included Fried rice, paneer, chutney, payesh(kheer), Kichuri and Mixed Vegetable.
Some offers Kochi Patha (mutton) which is slaughtered by the priest and is given to Maa Kali made by the Brahmins without onion, with much devotion and care. No matter what the bhog is, it is the yummiest and that bhog is distributed at late night after the Puja is over. We waited impatiently to relish the delicious bhog.
After the crackers are over we are tired and hungry and the bhog coming from the Puja temple is no less than a blessing from Maa Kali assuring every evil has its doom day. We have to fight the battle of truth and justice and She is within each one of us.
The top art work is an old Bengal print of Shree Maha Kali with the Mahavidya.
What's Your Reaction?
Priyasha is an astrologer by profession, a foodie to the core, a shutki maachh ‘proselytiser’ , a mother of two beautiful souls, and the lead chef in her house. Singing and writing her dearly held hobbies. She writes to us from Bangalore