By Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
So the festive season is over. Months of preparations, days of anticipation and hours of mounting expectations have all whizzed past in a matter of four days. We had enough fun and unadulterated joy during the Pujas and even before the pujas all those shopping and preparations kept us happy for weeks together. But finally we had to accept that the time for the departure of the Goddess had arrived. On the 30th September she left the earth on her way to her heavenly abode. It was a sad day for us and once again we realized the bitter truth that life is not all pleasure. As Yevgeny Yevtushenko observed, “Life is a rainbow which also includes black”. Just as all good things in life come to an end, the curtains too dropped over the festive and colourful occasion of Durga Puja with the arrival of Bijoya Dashami. It is the same story of joy and sorrow every year and we go through the same emotions repeatedly year after year.
We all know that pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, happiness and misery, all go together. They are relative terms and one is incomplete and meaningless without the other, which fact is so poignantly demonstrated by Durga Puja. The celebration of the Puja and the unalloyed joy at her arrival did bring to our mind the fact that she would depart after a brief sojourn on earth. Though we all knew about it, yet it was a terribly sad task for us to actually bid her farewell on the Bijoya Dashami day and it is the same story every year. The eyes of the people became moist with unshed tears at the very thought of Mother Goddess leaving the earth and going back to her heavenly abode. Even the sound of conch shells and beat of the drum sounded somewhat subdued. A kind of overpowering gloom seemed to pervade everything, including the sky, the air, the earth, the trees and all other objects. Even the birds seemed to be morose. Perhaps our feelings are reflected by nature.
The joy of Sasthi, when the Goddess enters the Navapatrika, is tinged with the pain of Dashami, when the Goddess leaves the earth. Yet on the first day very few of us bothered about Dashami, the day when the Goddess was to leave the earth, as it seemed to be far away Guwahati did not sleep for four nights at a stretch—there was joy in the air and it was a pleasure to see the bright happy faces of men, women and children going around in their finery. The mornings were meant for floral offerings and worship and evenings were meant for pandal-hopping and to gape at the magnificent decorations. As usual every year, it was a mass of humanity everywhere. The diverse designs and the presentations of the Deity demonstrated the skill and ingenuity of the talented artisans. For us there was the feeling that the Goddess was really with us and she could see us and hear us as well. The devotees poured out their hearts to the Mother Goddess, since they were very sure that she could understand their problems and would also protect them from all kinds of misfortune. For us she is the loved, respected and revered Mother. That is why our eyes clouded with tears of heart-broken sadness when we saw the idols of the Mother Goddess Durga being carried away for immersion.
It was a very sad and heart-rending event. Choking emotions gripped us as we slowly grasped the truth that our Mother was leaving us. It always happens every year. As in previous years this time also we felt as if she too was feeling sad and wanted to tell us something. Perhaps she wanted to say that she would come again the next year, or may be, she wanted us to be good human beings. At such times and also at times when we go to offer our prayer to the Deity, we forget that it is only an earthen idol made of clay. During Durga Puja we feel that the Mother Goddess is really in front of us and she is loving and kind to millions of her admirers. It looks as if the image is filled with life and emotions. Our eyes turn moist and heart heavy when we look at the idol and bid farewell to our beloved Mother Goddess Durga Devi.
We all believe that even after Dashami the Mother Goddess does not leave our heart, but lives in it, giving courage to us to tackle any problem, major or minor. She is always present in each element of nature. Yet the day of Dashami saddens us, because it signifies not only the departure of the Goddess, but also the end of the festive spirit so evident during the Pujas. It indicates the departure of the divine touch too from the hearts of the people as they return to their day to day mundane activities. In the pre puja period and during the Pujas, somehow people acquire a kind of mystical feeling, which cannot be explained in words. I suppose everybody feels it. In these days people go nearer to the Divine Deity and very few persons nurture evil thoughts in their minds. They definitely become better human beings, even if for a short period. That is a great feeling anyway. Everybody is happy during this period and they understand the meaning of bliss, which is not disturbed by any thought of terrorism, and other anti-social activities. People learn to be happy and they also become aware of the beauty and the splendour of art and culture.
The four days of the Pujas are the only days when people bother to admire the perfection of the idol, the glamour of the architecture and splendour of the idol, which are the representations of the Deity. The pink and white sewali flowers bring a kind of celestial ecstasy to the minds of the people. Even Nature seems to appear in all her splendour. There is no place for misery in those blissful days of Durga Puja. People forget their individual problems and there is this general belief that the Mother Goddess will protect them from any untoward event. This deep conviction is a great feeling and it is a source of abundant joy. That is why on the Bijoya Dashami the heart of each person cries with pangs of separation. Mother Durga, in the form of “Durgatinashini”, symbolizes eternal power and we hope that she will always protect us from evil forces.
Human beings are full of emotions and it is human nature not to be able to take departure devoid of emotion. Any departure, earthly or supernatural, hurts the soul and brings tears to the eyes. Any parting, momentary or permanent, has so profound an impact upon human soul that we find very difficult to get over it. Life has so much to offer, which is more often than not a mixture of smiles and tears, joy and sorrow, happiness and unhappiness. But usually it is sorrow, which predominates our life. We cannot escape from sorrow, as it is a part of life, yet perhaps we can minimize its impact with the blessings of the Mother Goddess. At her departure we do feel sad and sorrow overwhelms us. The wise people say that all good things must come to an end. Perhaps they are right, as good and bad always go together and we will not realize what is good, if there is nothing bad. Our ecstasy and joy at the arrival of the Goddess turns into anguish on the day of her departure. The same thing happens every year.
This time also the city turned a dull grey on the day of the Bijoya Dashami. After four days of joy and fun during the Pujas it was very hard to take the departure of the Goddess philosophically. The lights were brought down and the city suddenly looked bare and gloomy. The empty pandals themselves spoke of a great inarticulate sorrow. They too looked grief-stricken and bare. After the departure of the Mother Goddess the city again adjusts to its mundane routine of daily life. Life moves on in spite of all the tears and heavy hearts. We have to survive under unfavourable conditions. The mood of despondency came on the Nabami evening and people wanted the time to stand still, which is an impossible wistful thought. Time and tide wait for no man, as the saying goes. Nabami is an odd mixture of joy and sorrow and on the Nabami might we had the sudden reminder of the fact that humdrum life was just a day away.
Dashami arrived to the beat of drums, but the sounds seemed to be subdued and the noise was not so loud and cheerful. Perhaps they were the projections of our own gloomy feelings. We had a lump in our throat and it is a fact that life does not always brings the best feelings. In the morning the Puja pandals were thronged by a large number of people, specially women, who came with vermilion and sweets to pay homage to the Deity before her departure. There was merriment in ‘sindur khela’ by the ladies in some pandals and sweets were given to each other. The merriment of the ladies were tinged with sorrow, as the thought of the imminent departure of the Goddess did dampen their enthusiasm. But there was also the hope that she would come again the next year and that hope brought a silver lining to the gloom.
In the evening the banks of the rivers wore a festive look as the Puja organizers went in colourful processions to the accompaniment of drums to immerse the idols. The immersion ceremony symbolizes the end of the Mother Durga’s annual sojourn in her parental home and return to her husband’s home in Kailash. The immersion took place amidst sorrow. People watched the beautiful idols being thrown into the river and the Goddess disappeared beneath the grey water under a grey sky of a grey world. People bade farewell to the Goddess, whom they worshipped so devotedly. Yet there was hope, as if a glimmer of smile could be seen even in the clouds, when people remembered that the Mother was going home and she would come again the next year. The years come and go at a regular basis. People realize that good times may not last forever, but they do come back in the end. Life is not pleasure or pain all the way and it is a synthesis of both. If we are sad today, we will be surely happy tomorrow. That is the way life goes on. As Soren Kierkegaard remarked, “Life must be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards”. I suppose that is life in a nutshell and we must move forward with hope in our hearts without any backward glance at the tragedies of life. It is hope that keeps us going and the hope, that the Mother Goddess would come again the next year, makes us happy and confident. As Alexander Pope stated, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”. We can tackle life’s afflictions with the hope for better days. Without hope, we cannot survive.
So Durga Devi came and went and we are left with the memories of those happy days. I wonder if the Mother Goddess could detect all these Mahishasuras lurking in the city, vitiating the social structure. The original Mahishasura looked and acted like a demon and even a sinner like him never cheated. But these modern Mahishasuras cannot be easily recognized due to their sleek appearance 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 and the people today are not the least interested in spiritualism, which only can give liberation to the human beings and make them happy. In this artificial money-crazy world spiritualism has no place. People are chasing money, wealth and power. They have done everything possible to achieve these temporary benefits. They do not realize that the things they want, have only relative value and no absolute value.
These 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. This year also we saw money, gold and silver being showered on her. But I feel sure that Goddess does not require them. We cannot wash away our sins by showering wealth on her. She is a giver and not a taker. I suppose she wants us to refrain from doing sinful actions and then she would surely bless us. But we are finite human beings and hence perhaps we do not realize that the only way to please the Goddess is to discard all our evil activities. Let us hope and pray that the Mother Goddess forgives us for all our misdeeds and blesses us to be better human beings. That is the only way to happiness. We should be grateful to her for coming to the earth each year with the message of good will and we sincerely hope that she would come again. We are fortunate that in spite of all our sins and misdeeds she has not yet abandoned us to our fate. If we are sincere in our prayers, we should surely endeavour to make ourselves good human beings with humanitarian qualities, so that the earth becomes a peaceful and happy place to live in.
We do feel sad after the departure of the Goddess and the days seem rather flat. But we have to accept that life is not all fun. Hard work is necessary to keep life going. Work is very necessary for existence. If all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, the reverse is also true. We cannot spend our days in fun, we have to work and fulfill our duty to our families and to the nation without any selfish desire. As Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita, one can achieve ‘moksha’ or liberation by doing disinterested action (niskama karma). That is the way to happiness. Desire for fruits of action makes people unhappy. This is not easy, but surely we can try. Let us then do our duty honestly with the hope that the Goddess will come back again the next year to make us happy. Some of us may have spent more than we could afford during the festive season. But we should not make ourselves unhappy with worries. If we take care of the present, the future will surely look after itself. Let us then try to be good and happy, dear reader. All my best wishes to all of you.