By Saurabh Bhattacharya October 1999 The fervently devout worship of Durga, mother-goddess, is immortalized through the lens of photographer Suman Sarkar Devi is coming. Slaps of clay on a bamboo-husk dummy greet the supreme manifestation of Shakti. Rough fingertips lightly press the nose into shape, tenderly nurse the bosom of the Mother. The hands of the Creator, ten awesome symbols of power both benign and destructive, are massaged by muddy hands of the creator. Legend has it that Durga was created by Shiva to decimate the marauding demon Mahisasura. But legends are there to adorn Truth with the trappings of a tale. And the Truth is that the dark miasma of ignorance must give way to the light of realization. It is only a matter of time. That time has come. Outside the sculptor’s workshop, a gentle breeze of sharad (autumn) strokes the snowy-white fields of pollinated grass. Inside, brow furrowed in concentration, the sculptor turns artist as he brings the Mother’s trinetra (third eye) to the fore with light strokes of the brush. Stage by delicate stage, the Devi takes on an anthropomorphic tenor. Decorated with weapons and ornaments, seated on a fierce lion, She moves from the devoted hands of the sculptor before the worshipping gaze of people. Devi arrives. A deafening crescendo of drums and cymbals greet the ultimate symbol of Glory. Streams of devotees bow their heads in awe as the purohit (priest) begins the ritual of prana-pratishtana, invoking the spirit of the Goddess to enter the idol. Swept off their feet by sheer joy, frenzied worshippers swirl around, holding a smoking cup of incense. For the next five days, the Mother’s effulgence embraces all. The power of prayer is in the air and nothing can keep the devotee from breathing it in. For five days, the supreme intoxication of spirituality rules the roost. And finally, on the fifth day, Vijaya Dashami… Devi returns. Undulating waves of a river lap their farewell to the eternal personification of Grace. A sorrowful, yet strangely happy sun dips over the horizon, its dying rays lingering over the floating idol. Shorn of all color, it still retains the heavenly beauty of divinity. The riverbank, churned by endless feet—and tears—of devotees, returns to the placidity of yore. Life trudges back—but with the flicker of a smile and joyous words in the heart: Asche bochor aabaar hobey (It will happen next year too). Durga never came. Durga never went. Durga is eternally here.
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