How Durga Pujo is celebrated beyond the Hindu community

Jharkhand, India Sep 22, 2017, 07.53 AM(IST) Written By: Subhashish Das

Santals dance the Dasainkodaku during their Dasain festivity celebrated during the Durga Puja of the Hindus Photograph:( Others )

Durga Puja is the celebration of the war goddesses Durga's win over the evil demon named Mahishasur. The myth is that the Goddess was not born but created by the various Gods to slay the evil Asur or demon who had terrorised both the earth and the heavens where the gods reside. Durga Puja, thereby, symbolises the victory of good over evil.

The real Durga Puja is done during spring. The autumnal Durga Puja, performed in the month of Ashwin, is also known as the Akal- bodhan because of its unusual timing. The autumnal puja was believed to have been performed by Lord Rama in Rameshwaram with the intention of appeasing Goddess Durga so that he is able to defeat Ravana. The irony of this puja was that Ravana himself being a devotee of Goddess Durga agreed to be the priest in Rama's puja that was arranged to defeat him.

But there are other versions of the Durga Puja. According to one such version, the Durga Pujas of spring and autumn were actually harvesting festival, celebrating both the spring and the autumnal equinoxes.

The other version deals with the tribal lineage of Durga. According to many scholars, the term Dussera has been loaned from the non-Aryan tribes. Dussera is believed to have stemmed from two words of Dus or ten and Eras or Goddesses Incidentally, Era is the austric Santali word for a Goddess. In other words, Dussera would mean the celebration of Ten Eras or Ten Goddesses.

How some of the tribes in Jharkhand celebrate the Durga Puja

A unique picture that captures the hybridisation of two faiths of both the Santals and the Hindus. Here the Santals dance the Dasainkodaku during their Dasain ceremony in the Mandapa of the Durga of the Hindus (Others)

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The Santals

The tribals being non-Aryan and non-Hindu have their own religious faiths and, therefore, their own gods and goddesses. The Santal tribe across the state and the country celebrate Dasain during the Hundur Pujo (or the Hindu's Puja) of the Durga Puja.

Dasain is a four-day long celebration of the Santals that commences from the mahasaptami or the 7th lunar day of the Autumn Durga Puja. The Santals worship Goddess Jaher inside their sacred grove called Jaher Than to procure power and strength.

The myth behind Dasain is that once there were two lovers among the Santals: Durga, a girl, and the boy was Devi. The lovers used to meet in the woods, and once it so happened that the Aryans kidnapped the happy couple. The news of their abduction finally reached their villages. The tribe-folks went door to door in search of Durga and Devi by beating their traditional drums. But nowhere could the couple be found.

The search party is supposed to have reached the seashore but even there they could not be located. It was raining cats and dogs, hence, they could not cross the ocean to search Durga and Devi. Since then, till the present day the Santals believe that the lovers are still alive and they could indeed be found, hence the custom of Dasainkodaku in which they dance in their own tradition, visiting every home in hope of finding both Durga and Devi.

An Asur tribal smelting iron (Others)

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The Asurs

Asurs are a small Mundari tribe believed to be the first iron-smelting people of India. The Mehrauli iron pillar in Delhi is one of their most famous works.

The Asurs are found all over north India; their various groups are, primarily, settled in Latehar, Gumla, Lohardagga, Khunti and Hazaribagh and other districts of Jharkhand and even in the state of West Bengal.

These people consider themselves to be the descendants of the legendary Mahishasur, the mythological demon who was slain by the Aryan war Goddess Durga.

During the Navratri festival, the Asur people lock themselves in their homes, blocking every window and every point from where light can enter into their homes. In the evenings they would come out to mourn the slaying of their king Mahish-asur. The mourning stems from the belief that the Aryan Devtas had tricked as well as killed their king and other prominent Asurs and might as well do the same again. Hence such precautions.

Despite all these nuances, many among the tribes have been adopting the Hindu way of life, celebrating the Durga Puja like other inhabitants of the region.