“Let there be Light “ ..Kali Puja & Diwali!

Looks like our neighbouring School’s ‘chutir ghonta’ (Holiday bell) rang today with an added vivacity! The children seemed to scurry out of the school gate with a prominent ecstasy on those bright innocent eyes! My glance at the notice board unfolded the reason! They were elated for their weeklong Diwali Holidays that would end post Bhaai-Dooj!

Bengali culture is such that It’s pre-festive vibes are very prominent. Lighting up our homes with bulbs and starlights of various sizes a few days ahead of Kali Puja aka Diwali along with our hi-tea sip ushers in the Kali Pujo vibe!

Diwali for the rest of India, marks from the Treta Yuga, when Shri Rama put an end to Ravana's tyranny on the day of Dashami. After 20 days, People of Ayodhya, waited with bated breath to welcome Shri Rama, his consort Sita and brother Lakshmana. They lit earthen lamps and illuminated the city with shimmering lights to celebrate His arrival.

For Bengalis, Kali Puja, also known as Shyama Puja , is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Kali. It coincides with the Lakshmi Puja day of Diwali.

“Ma Kali” as we worship Her, is the chief of the Mahavidyas, a group of ten Tantric Goddesses who each form a different aspect of the Mother Goddess Parvathi. Purans depict that, at the battlefield with Demons, Durga created goddesses to help her defeat the Asuras, including Kali and the Matrikas, the Seven Mothers. Kali is Durga's personified wrath. Parvathi is even said to take on a fierce form by transforming herself into Kali from the poison stored in Shiva's throat. The puja commemorates this victory of good of evil.

Hence Diwali is rightfully heralded as the “Festival of Lights”. Colorful candles and 'Diyas' beam throughout the evening at the salient corners of every house in the neighbourhood. For a day, we disremember our real age and flutter on our colony roads with kids, bursting various kinds of firecrackers. ‘Rockets’ whizz past from one terrace to the other. Flower-pots being lighted every meter away on the roads makes the darkest of the dark house in the colony incandescent! Such is the aura of Kali Puja, such is the charm of Diwali !!

As a matter of fact, I correlate Kali Puja with a lot of optimism. With Ma Uma bidding goodbye on Dussehra, Kali Puja still remains to be celebrated on our Bengali calendars. It ushers in a subdued mirth from somewhere deep within our hearts that the Puja vibe is not over yet !!

Such is the omnipresence of Light and Hope on this day, that the poor, the destitute seem to forget their plight for a while. Seema, who has had a heartbreak off late, and prefers to shut her room doors into darkness for most of the hours, falls in love with the Light and marvel all around !

Seventy-Five year old Shova Dida, whose life is encircled in the 9 by 6 dingy room of that old-age home because her NRI son abandoned her, is seen at the balcony holding a phuljhaadi (or a ‘taarabaati’ as we Bengalis call it). Her innocent smile depicts nothing but unadulterated glee and optimism!

..Hebrew enunciated “Let there be Light” Bengalis chant “Maa’er paayer joba hoye othh na phute mon” (may my heart bloom at Ma Kali’s feet like a red Hibiscus) and the rest of India warbles “khushiyon ka tyohar Diwali aayi” (The festival of happiness i.e. Diwali is here) ! 😊

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