The soiree is about to come to a close with the commencement of the final round of rituals on Dashami morning. The day plays a sad serenade to the devotee who makes his way to the puja mandap for the one last time. The curtain is about to fall on the 5 day festivity that has left all who has been a part of it, in a state of euphoric trance.
As the priest sets out to perform the ceremonies, the devotee engages in a spiritual dialogue with the mother goddess. The exchange is akin to one that, a reluctant child will have with his mother, who must leave him for a while to run her errands. Why must she leave him and go? Who is to protect him and take care of his needs while she is away? The devotee is plagued with similar questions. But, the one year long separation is inevitable and he has to wait it out.
After the ceremonial rituals for Dashami have run their course, married women indulge in a traditional practice called ‘Sindoor Khela’ where they smear the goddess and each other with red vermilion in the hope of a long and happy life with their husbands. And then, begins the onward journey towards ‘bisorjan’ or the immersion of the idol.
The immersion of the goddess in the holy waters of the Ganges is symbolic in that, it signifies her journey back to Mt. Kailash, her heavenly abode where she dwells with Lord Shiva. And this process is a one of a kind spectacle. Babughat is the most popular site for ‘bisorjon’ in Kolkata. Idols from all over the town queue up here before they take the final plunge.
People arrive in hundreds to witness the concluding moments of this 5 day long celebration and to prolong the minutes of stay with their mother goddess. Moist eyes, vermillion smeared faces, the beats of dhak rising to a crescendo – the atmosphere is electrifying. Emotions well up; a sudden sense of loss grips the soul as the mind registers the year-long wait until Her next visit. A final prayer on the lip, a last look at Her face and then the momentary sensation of sinking in a bottomless pit as you watch the river engulf Her. And then all of a sudden, the spell is broken by the collective chant of the devotees, ‘Asche bochor abar hobe’(next year we will celebrate Durga Puja again) which keeps resounding in the air.
Dashami is Bijoya Dashami because according to Hindu mythology on this day, Goddess Durga had killed the demon Mahishasura. The Hindu epic Ramayana also marks this day as the one on which Lord Rama had defeated Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. So, the occasion is significantly auspicious. To mark it, the Bengali men folk to embrace and exchange Bijoya greetings after the immersion is over while the younger people touch the feet of the elders and seek their blessings. Sweets are exchanged, ties are renewed and bonds are strengthened though the exchange of Bijoya pleasantries.
And then begins the 360 day countdown once again…