The festival of Durga Puja in West Bengal, especially Kolkata, is a celebration for all religious communities. However, this time a Puja Pandal in Kolkatta had decided to make a point of inclusive celebrations of the festival of Shakti as they have picked an eight-year-old Muslim girl for Kanya or Kumari Pujan on Maha Ashtami.
Kumari Puja is an essential part of Durga Puja, during which an unmarried girl who has not attained puberty, is symbolically worshiped as a goddess.
Kumari Puja is usually organized at the end of Mahashtami Puja. According to Hindu scriptures, Kumari Puja commemorates the killing of Kolasura by Goddess Kali. Also across India, Hindus wash the feet of little girls, who are treated as the embodiment of Shakti, the feminine divinity personified as Durga and Shakti, etc., and feed them special foods.
Legend has it that Kolasura once took over the heaven and the earth. The helpless gods approached Mahakali for help and in response, the Goddess was reincarnated as a maiden who lured the demon Kolasura and killed him.
This time Nafisa, a resident of New Town, Kolkata, was chosen as ‘Kumari’ by the women’s committee. Traditionally, only Brahmin girls are first selected as ‘Kumari’.
Mrittika Club, which is organizing its first puja, has given a message of inclusivity by choosing a Muslim girl as Kumari.
Many members of the Mrittika Club are influenced by the teachings of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission Headquarters, Belur Math, founded by Swami Vivekananda. In 1898, Swami Vivekananda requested a Muslim sailor to allow his four-year-old daughter to worship him as Durga at the Kheer Bhawani temple in Srinagar.
Pratham Mukherjee, secretary of the Mritika Club, told mediapersons, “If Swamiji could worship a Muslim girl more than a century ago, why can’t we do it now?”
Although Muslim families have been participating enthusiastically in Durga Puja, but this will be the first time that a girl from the community is being worshiped as a goddess. In Kumari Puja, the same rituals are performed for the worship of Kumari (young unmarried girl) as are performed during the worship of Goddess Durga. It is purified and sanctified through chanting of sacred mantras and Aarti is performed.
However, Hindus are not supposed to discriminate between girls when it comes to taking them as a form of Goddess. However, due to the recent hardening of attitudes, many have started being choosy about whom to worship.