Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
Pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, happiness and misery always go together. They are like two sides of a coin, which is the law of nature. They are relative terms and one is incomplete without the other, which is so poignantly demonstrated by Durga Puja. The celebration of Durga Puja and the unalloyed joy at her arrival did bring to our mind that she would depart after a brief sojourn on earth. Yet it was terribly hard for us to bid her farewell on the day of her departure. Those four days of pleasure were too short for our satisfaction. Yet there is this hope that she would come again the next year and that hope keeps us going.
The joy of sasthi, when the Goddess enters the Navapatrika, is tinged with the pain of Dasami, the day when the Goddess leaves the earth. Yet on the first day of the puja, not every one of us bothered about the dasami, as it seemed to be for away. But to our sorrow her day of departure arrived too soon, actually before we were mentally prepared to bid her farewell. Anyway, our consolation was that all good things come to an end and it is no use shedding tears over it is inevitable.
Hopefully those four days of happiness will keep us going through the year with reasonable confidence. Guwahati did no sleep for those four nights at a stretch. There was joy in the air and it was a pleasure to see the happy faces of men, women and children going around in their finery, certainly felt a kind of bliss spreading over the entire city. All the people regardless of caste or community seemed to be in the festive mood.
For a few days at least we could forget all our problems and suffering. After all, a few days of joy is worth a life time of drudgery. Hence everyone tried to derive as much joy as possible during the Pujas. As usual in the mornings people in large number thronged the puja pandals to offer “puspanjali” to the deity. The evenings were meant for pandal hopping. It was a mass of humanity in every puja pandal. The diverse designs and presentations demonstrated the skill and ingenuity of the artists. The decorations in some of them were thematic, displaying various issues of the state. The idols were technological and electrical wonders. But spirituality seemed to be missing.
This year floods caused havoc in the state. Some places were the worst sufferers and the flood affected people had to go through immense hardships. Many people lost their lives, their homes were destroyed and animals were washed away by the surging water. Many children too were drowned. Words cannot express the sufferings of the people, who had to be accommodated in various camps. My heart goes out to those unfortunate homeless people, who lost diverse things, including the near and dear ones. They naturally could not have experienced the joy the puja. Yet we have to say that what cannot be avoided must be endured.
Evils may be of two kinds, natural and moral evil. Floods are acts of God. So we are bound to suffer, though perhaps they could have been controlled to some extent by the concerned department in charge of the floods. But of course we do not really see consideration and dedication in any of these sectors. Moral evils are the most devastating ones. Through the years we have noticed that the situation has been going from bad to worse. Bomb blasts, shootings, stabbings, abductions, extortions, rapes etc. have become regular events. No one is safe in this state of ours. Fear has engulfed our lives and we are all the time living in fear, and it affects not only our mind, but health as well.
Man has become unbelievably cruel and greedy. Now the whole world has become aware of the effects of environmental pollution. Once there was no question of environmental pollution, since there was a close relationship between man and nature. In that age people venerated nature and none tried to spoil the natural flora and fauna. But now with his superior knowledge man has been exploiting nature. He has cut down trees, savaged mountains, brought out things from the interior of the earth, thereby pushing the earth to the brink of extinction. Global warming has alarmed the whole world and there have been various discussions to find ways and means to save the earth.
In ancient times man treated animals with respect and consideration. But now they do not have any compassion for the dumb animals. They have lost their habitat due to the machinations of human beings. Destruction of forests has deprived the animals of their habitations. In recent times so many one horned rhinoceroses have been killed for their precious horns, which are being sold for huge amounts. These unscrupulous miscreants have not got a spark of decent feeling. These horrendous events amply demonstrate that man has become the lowest of the low animals. He can no longer boast to be the greatest product in the evolutionary process. The lust for power and money has destroyed all the intrinsic goodness potentially existent in human beings. We hear that God created man in his own image; but the modern man has lost his humanity, which is invariably connected with goodness.
In the fields of science and technology we have made enormous progress. Today man thinks that nothing is impossible for him. He treats nature with arrogance and believes that natural things are created for the exclusive benefit of human beings. Due to the ruthless and inconsiderate attitude of human beings, the earth seems to be heading for destruction. Several dangers from diverse sources have threatened the earth and its inhabitants.
All these problems have arisen due to the materialistic attitude of mankind. In the epic age spiritualism reigned supreme and hence those people in that era did not face so many problems as we are facing now. They were content with what they had and they had respect for every other species residing on earth. They were closely related to nature and wild life and never wanted to dominate over them like the present breed of human beings.
We are not happy, because we are never content with what we have. In this competitive world each one is trying to do better than the other by hook or by crook. Our finer feelings have been lost due to our egocentric attitude. Love of money has coloured our vision and we cannot distinguish between fake and real.
Every year Durga Devi comes to the earth to demonstrate victory of good over evil forces. Her visit signifies the fact that in the ultimate run evil cannot win. It is true that till now we see only evil all around. But we can also see that man is pushing the earth to the brink of extinction with his arrogance and selfishness. It is perhaps a self-defeating process. We should note that Durga Puja emphasizes spiritualism and not materialism. Only through the heart we can offer prayers to her. Her presence makes us feel good and confident. She has the power to awaken our dormant spirituality. We enjoyed the days of the puja, but we should also concentrate on her message of victory of good over evil. All human beings are equally dear to her and she is never partial to anybody. If we realize that all human beings are related to one another, we would have no enmity or hostility against anybody. Perhaps by celebrating Durga Puja we do feel a kind of spiritual awakening in us.If we can arouse the goodness that is lying dormant in us, and then our puja will be successful. Puja does not signify any material gain but prayers uplift our mental attitude and bring a kind of peace of mind. We hope Durga devi this year has been able to cleanse our minds with her divine blessings. Pujas do not mean shopping, partying or feasting, they are meant to arouse our humanity, potentially existent in us.
We have suffered a lot perhaps due to our faults. Yet the days during the pujas were quite enjoyable. We only hope that the Goddess would not abandon us in despair and disgust. She must have noticed that the demon dynasty is not yet extinct. Only through meditation and selfless activities we can be better human beings. Genuine repentance may free our mind from evil propensities.
On the Vijaya Day people went to various pandals to bid farewell to the Goddess, and offered sweet and flowers. It was a bitter sweet occasion, when one has to accept the fact that the Goddess is leaving her devotees for a whole year. After the ‘Visarjan’ the ladies put vermillion on each other and offered sweets. Then it was all over with tears in eyes the devotees bade her a fond farewell hopefully waiting for her to visit the earth again the next year; though it is a long wait.
Immersion of the deities as usual took place in the evening with boisterous young people accompanying the Goddess with loud cheers. It was heart breaking to watch the beautiful decorated idols being thrown into the river. I wonder how artisans feel when they see their exquisite creations floating in water. That is life; I suppose a mixture of pleasure and pain. So the Mother Goddess came and went and we are left with the memory of those joyous days. I wonder if the Goddess could detect all these evil forces vitiating the social structure. The original Mahisasura looked and acted like a demon and even a sinner like him never cheated. But in this era followers cannot be easily recognized due to their sleek and sophisticated behaviour. Even the Goddess may not have been able to unmask them. Yet she must have noticed that the earth is not what it was. People today are the least interested in spiritualism which only can give liberation to human beings. In this artificial, money crazy world spiritualism has no place. People are running after money, wealth and power. They do not realize that all these things have only relative value and no absolute value. Those money crazy and power hungry people have this misconception that they can propitiate the Goddess with gold and silver. It is a ludicrous notion. The Goddess has everything and she wants nothing from us except sincerity and devotion. We hope she would forgive us for all our misdeeds and bring peace to this good earth of ours. But for that we would have to mend our ways and he worthy of the blessings of the Mother Goddess. It might be a hard task, but not impossible. Let us then try to be better human beings, and there lies our destiny.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)