Today marks the beginning of Debipokkho, signalling the goddess’ imminent arrival to the human realm, and the joyful awakening of a culture and people to welcome her.
It’s often said that the Bengalis’ relatively liberal view of women (despite being a deeply patriarchal community), and the tradition of strong, vocal and authoritative women amongst them, is rooted in their worship of the goddess in her aspect of the warrior-mother. We worship her in full battle regalia, slaying an otherwise unslayable asura. And yet, she is surrounded by her divine children — the goddess of learning, the goddess of wealth and happiness, the scribe-god who grants success, and the pretty-boy god who looks gorgeous. Feminists of my acquaintance — curiously, all men — assert that there is no better time to invoke inclusive gender equity than on Mohaloya, when the time of the goddess — unslottable in to convenient ‘woman power’, ‘career woman’, ‘deeply sensuous lover’, ‘long-haired hippie-chick’ or ‘loving mother’ slots — begins.
These shots were taken last year around this time, from a moving bus. It shows a group of young men transporting an idol from Calcutta’s artisan hub Kumartuli, to their own neighbourhood. The goddess’ weaponds are missing, since those are only installed after the idol is put on the pedestal. I’m devastated work I no longer allows me to take that wonderful route, or I’d have more recent, and far more gorgeous, pics to show.