By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Lord Biswakarma has arrived in the city to a tumultuous welcome. Since a week back the preparations have been going on to perform the puja in style. The images have been brought to the various pandals. For their transport trucks, rickshaws, autorickshaws, even pushcarts have been used. But he always arrives riding his trade mark elephant. The Lord has been installed in various puja mandaps with great fanfare, as before. At present the devotees have thronged the puja pandals, scattered all over the city.
This dapper god visits the earth on 17th September without fail every year. Regarding the arrival of other gods and goddesses, the dates vary and we have to go by the astronomical data of the almac to find out the date of his arrival. But Biswakarma comes on the same date year after year. Perhaps this fixed date of arrival is due to his scientific bent of mind.
Lord Biswakarma is supposed to be the architect in the kingdom of gods. According to the legend he was the god, who built “Indraprastha”, the magnificent kingdom of the Pandavas. Apparently he built this gorgeous wonderful city from the ruins of “Khandavprastha”. That is as far as our knowledge goes regarding this architect god. Hence industry and scientific technology are closely linked with Lord Biswakarma. This scientific god probably does not have any faith on these doubtful almacs and seems to follow the western calendar. Apparently he has no time for dillydallying and arrives on 17th September riding his majestic elephant and the very next day leaves the earth on his way back to his heavenly abode.
Like everything else Biswakarma puja has also gone through enormous changes through the years. Decades back Biswakarma was not considered as a very important god. Once he was such an insignificant deity that his coming or going did not even cause a ripple.
People at large were neither aware of him nor were they interested. Frankly speaking he was unknown to the hoipolloi. He was supposed to be a poor man’s god hobnobbing with a bunch of mechanics and chauffeurs. Years back Lord Biswakarma was worshipped by some chauffeurs, mechanics, electricians, carpenters, masons, plumbers and others like them. Different groups huddled together to pay obeisance to the deity in some dark corner or shed. The deity came and went without any fanfare.
In that age there was no industry worth the me and Assam was miles behind other states. Today the picture is different. The country has progressed a lot in the industrial sector, though Assam has not made any noticeable progress in this sector, till now. Still in this scientific age, when the world is ruled by computers, machines and information technology Biswakarma has suddenly leapt into dizzy height. There has been no looking back for him. He has even left the goddess of learning Saraswati (who was once deemed as more important and popular) far behind in the ladder of power and popularity.
It is indeed gratifying that this unnoticed and neglected god has at last maged to secure the recognition which he so richly deserves in this fast-moving world of ours. During the present era hundreds of pujas are performed in every nook and corner of the city as well as in other parts of the state. From the lowest to the highest, from the petty cobbler to the richest industrialist, everybody offers obeisance to the deity with the pious hope of getting more favour and heavy returns. Frenzied preparations for his puja continue for days together and we see everywhere brightly lit pandals being erected for his puja. Not only Engineering and other technological institutes, but even a person with a typewriter offers homage to the deity. Garages and famed institutes perform the puja in style. Hilarity and boisterousness continue from the pre-puja night to the post-puja day when immersion of the idols takes place.
There is no harm in observing religious rites, if they cleanse our hearts. Since we depend on gods for our welfare, it is only tural that we want Biswakarma’s blessings for being successful in any job that involves machineries. Hence the puja is no longer confined to chauffeurs or petty mechanics, rather it is celebrated in a big way in industrial sectors. The architect god has justifiably claimed his rightful place amongst the gods. He seems to have surpassed even the goddess of learning, Saraswati in popularity and prominence. Assam is lagging far behind others in every aspect, yet we do not see any lack of fervour in observing the puja in glamorous setting. Some offices or institutes, which have some connection with power or technology demand dotions from the hapless consumers, who have to meet their exorbitant demands. It is not virtue, but prudence with prompts their action.
If the puja cleanses the hearts of the people and leads them towards a noble ideal, it is well and good. But it does not really happen that way, as far as we can make out. We forget that gods really do not demand any decorative settings or gorgeous pandals. They are satisfied with the simplest offerings, if they are offered with sincerity and devotion. The puja preparations need not reek of money. I do not think that the gods are least interested in money power or dotions. In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krish told Arju that any small offering like leaves, flowers, water or fruits offered with devotion pleases him. The same is the case in the context of all the deities we worship, as the scriptures state. They do not want gold or silver or money to be showered on them nor do they want pomp or splendour. But people now apparently believe that God bestows His favours only on those who offer the most valuable things. It is truly a ridiculous notion to say the least. With a pure heart we can please God and receive his blessings. Hence money is not a factor in the worship of any God, but today it appears to play a big role in the puja celebrations.
Ritualism has taken a very important place in all kinds of pujas. If by worshipping God people become better human beings, then certainly it is a step in the right direction. But unfortutely it does not seem to happen. There is enough festivity, but very little sanctity.
But undoubtedly Biswakarma puja brings lots of joy not only to the organizers, but to others as well irrespective of differences in caste or creed. In fact, it is always seen that people belonging to different religions perform the Biswakarma puja in perfect harmony and that does demonstrate the fact that basically India is a unity in diversity.
It is a very enjoyable event for everyone—adults, old people, and children, who visit various puja sites. The decorations and lighting wonders are breath-taking. They mutely demonstrate the ingenuity and the creative skill of our local youths. They really have talents, which become explicit on such occasions. The idols too are magnificent and they prove the hidden and ucknowledged calibre of the unknown artisans.
The morning rituals are reserved for worshipping the deity with floral offerings by the devotees. The evenings are meant for hilarity, without a trace of spirituality. What is noticeable in these functions is the power of money. There seems to be some undeclared competition amongst the various groups regarding the decoration and money power, which is evident to all. Actually the pujas can be performed without the glamorous display and one should realize that in any puja the devotee must surrender himself to the God totally. The pujas are sacred and the solemn occasion should not be marred by unethical behavior. In many pujas we only see outward show, which deprives the puja of its sanctity and turns the auspicious event into a farce. On the immersion day sometimes people hear about unpalatable incidents like drunken brawls, which not only damage the puja austerities, but also cause needless unpleasantness. Often some puja revellers make obscene remarks and tease young girls moving around to witness the pujas in different areas. These things merely destroy the spirit of puja.
Hilarity is a part of youth and are cannot expect them to remain solemn and pious throughout day and night. Biswakarma puja brings them an outlet for their exuberance and joy. It is tural for them. The only thing is that hilarity must not cross the limit. Ritualism is an aspect of not only Hinduism, but of every religion. It has been sanctioned by the religious texts as the step towards the realization of God. But ritualism without purity of mind is a meaningless exercise. We have become too much dependent on ritualism without understanding its implications. Worship of any god is not child’s play; it should be done properly with the true spirit of devotion. For us ignorance is bliss and very few of us care to know the true significance of the puja. Hence so many conflicts arise due to the misinterpretation of religion. But it is also true that in spite of being ignorant of the meaning of the pujas religious practices do bring some solace to the mind of the devotees and that is a great thing for the elevation of mind.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)