Forty-two children see a new world during Durga Puja

Raju Das
 SHILLONG, Sept 30 – This year’s five-day Durga Puja celebration has come to an end with immersion of the idols at Polo Ghat, but for 42 children dancing in the rain to the beats of the Dhak and smeared with sindoor, it’s the beginning of a whole new world.These children came from some of the most impoverished regions in East Khasi Hills district. “Some don’t get proper meals and so to get new clothes and the best of food and seeing a town for the first time has opened a new world for them,” Maharaj Damodaran of Bharat Sevashram said today.

Since the past week these children stayed at the Ashram in the State Capital and were provided new clothes and an opportunity to visit the Durga Puja Mandaps in the city and explore the city life.

“We usually spend 80 per cent of our Durga Puja collections on people… People like these poor children. Twenty per cent is spent on the rituals and idols and the associated cost of holding the Durga Puja,” Maharaj Damodaran says.

The small ashram, in terms of infrastructure and donation received, but big at heart and charity work, is located at Police Bazaar.

One of the unique features of the Durga Puja celebrations at Bharat Sevashram is that the children were given the honour to remove the shade from the idols’ faces on Shasthi puja (the first day.) Usually these are done by “priests or in other puja mandaps by VIPs.”

Not just that, these children were also given the honour to assist in preparing the items for the rituals during the five-day puja celebrations.

“We provided the girls some of the best dresses and sarees, the boys with pants and shirts. We wanted to make them feel special,” Maharaj Damodaran said.

He says that when food and clothes are provided to the Goddess during the Pujas, it is out of devotion. “We can’t say if the Goddess has taken the offerings, but with the children we can see that they are satisfied once they have eaten the food and happy when they wear the new clothes. That’s our motto, serve humanity, because there is divinity in every human being, especially children,” he said.

The monk said that next year the ashram would try to bring in more such children from more villages in the State and would try to put them up in pairs or more in people’s houses for at least four days so that they get to enjoy the celebrations.

The Puja rituals are also a bit different at the ashram. Goddess Durga is invoked by chanting of the Devi Puran. The twelve section of this Puran worship Devi or Shakti as the primordial creator of the Universe and celebrates the divine feminine as the origin of all existence.

“I never visited a town. This is my first visit. I enjoyed the whole week. We went to several places and saw the Durga Pujas. I want to come again,” Mukund, a twelve-year-old boy, part of the tour, said.

Meanwhile, the Durga idols were immersed with boisterous crowds dancing and chanting on the way with the belief that the Goddess would help bring in peace and prosperity to all, including the unfortunates like Mukund and his friends burdened by poverty.

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