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The Goddess is Back!

The Durga Puja is a special Hindu season to worship the universal Mother which takes place at the onset of spring and autumn. Well the autumn Durga Puja is upon us again. There is a special way to worship the Mother. A special Puja or worship ceremony is performed in the homes of devotees. As far as I can make out, in order to effectively worship the Mother (or Maa, as her devotees affectionately call her!) it is necessary to feed nine girls. If one boy joins in, it is also very auspicious. The ceremony is generally performed on the eighth or ninth day of the Navratras (meaning 'nine nights').

Devotees are finding it difficult to get exactly the right number of girls and boys. The usual number is something like five girls and three boys. My daughters are usually inundated with invitations for this Puja and they have to go to maybe ten houses in two days. Before Mel became a teen and 'grew up', she was beginning to have severe problems with this. "I'll go to only one house! How can I eat five lunches in two hours!" she would protest. I would argue in return that I understood her point, but that our neighbours had asked her to come as a favour. If they had less than the requisite number of girls, they would feel bad and their efforts to worship their goddess might not be as proper as they would have liked. Everyone's religious sentiments are very personal and I would like to support everyone's efforts to worship as they see fit.

Mel used to love this Puja. I remember her as a five year old saying: "Today, I am God!" and blessing everyone. This is because there is a belief that on that day, the goddess manifests herself in little girls. I suppose Mel couldn't help letting it go to her head as she was so innocent. The fact that one of our more formidable neighbours actually knelt in front of her and asked for her blessing in the Puja ceremony probably had something to do with it too. Trish never had that experience, but she likes the Puja because she gets nice food and little gifts of money. She attends the Puja in every house she is asked to without a murmur of dissent.

Well, there are no more invitations for Mel, grown up and all as she is. The invitations still come for Trisha. But one thing is very true: Mel still thinks she is a goddess, Puja or no Puja. And this is an eternal truth!


  1. I sympathize with your daughter...five lunches in two hours! It reminds me of when my husband and I visited some of his relatives in Finland years ago. We had to eat something in every home we visited. If you couldn't eat another bite they felt it was because their food wasn't good enough.

  2. I sympathize with your daughter...five lunches in two hours! It reminds me of when my husband and I visited some of his relatives in Finland years ago. We had to eat something in every home we visited. If you couldn't eat another bite they felt it was because their food wasn't good enough.

  3. Oops! I clicked once too often. :)

  4. Lol, aren't girls all like that! It's funny how girls can be so much the same in different worlds :) This is just the kind of post that has made me give you this wonderful Blog award! If you'd like to accept it's here:

  5. Hi Gaelika !! I always read your post and i am so happy to see that you are enjoying the Indian Culture !! You are making us feel proud !! Great..Unseen Rajasthan

  6. You have got the spirit behind the festival right. That is unusual even for Indians, or should I say that it is rare even for Indians who go through the motions without understanding the significance. Your daughter is absolutely right too.

  7. Another really intereting post Gael. And of course all teenage girls think they are godesses. I remember my daughter being the same.

  8. Mel sounds wonderful. I enjoy reading about all the festivals and customs in your adopted land.

  9. Well, you know that I am fascinated by goddess cultures and ideas about female deities, so I am especially thankful for your ethnography. Great post. P.S: I meant to read this earlier, but life got ahead of me -- as it so often does.

  10. That sounds like an amazing tradition!

  11. My dearest Gaelikaa-

    I think one of the main reasons I love coming to your blog is that I learn something new each time I visit! I so enjoy learning new things about other cultures and religions! Thank you for feeding my sponge like brain (and soul for that matter) with culture-ish nurishment!

    Another great post! So interesting! As always, I find your writing beautifully poignant!

    Happy blogging-
    Angela from Angela's Soliloquy

  12. I agree with Angela-I learn something new about this culture every time I read your blog. You write about it so interestingly! Thanks for the insights.

  13. Love the last line of your post, true the daughters are the real goddess, puja or no puja. I remember being invited to such pujas as a kid, and being treated like royalty, offered lovely food and my feet washed and all of that, i used to enjoy every moment of that day, my daughter has so far not recieved any such invitation, because we dont stay in India anymore..

  14. Hi Gaelikaa! This is something I have never seen happen in my in-laws home.This may be the culture,but,most educated, upper class Indians celebrate festivals among family only-daughters are never sent from house -house.And my in-laws don't involve me or my family in their rituals as I'm christian.Imagine eating all that food in 2 hours!

  15. I find this topic fascinating, great post. It can't hurt to think that one is a goddess, once in a while.

  16. I am soaking in your posts like a sponge. It's fascinating to read about traditions.


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