Some of us associate Navratri with scintillating dandiya nights and Garba. But, for many, it heralds Durga Puja celebrations. It is a time when pandals showcase intricately sculpted idols of Maa Durga for nine days of festivities.
Well, Durga Ashtami happens to be the most anticipated day and it falls on the eighth day of Navratri when Bengalis perform Pushpanjali Puja, Kumari Puja and aarti.
Conventionally, pre-pubescent Brahmin girls were worshipped as Goddess Durga for ‘Maha Ashtami’. But, the Dutta family of Arjunpur, West Bengal has brought a refreshing change.
The Dutta family has hosted Durga Puja at their residence for over six years. But this year they worshipped a pre-pubescent Muslim girl for the Kumari Puja, reports IE. The move was reportedly intended as a symbolic gesture that said festivals transcend religion.
“We had earlier worshipped a non-Brahmin girl and this time we worshipped a Muslim girl,” said Tamal Dutta, a member of the progressive clan who happens to work as an engineer at the local municipality.
“Earlier we used to worship only Brahmin girls as Kumari. But Maa Durga is the mother of every human being on the earth. So we broke away from the tradition,” Tamal added.
However, it was more than just happenstance that led them to worship young Fatima as Goddess Durga. Tamal explains that the family found it difficult to find a Muslim child to worship. Eventually, Tamal’s colleague Mohammed Ibrahim volunteered his niece Fatima, reports India Today.
The girl resides in Agra with her parents. Apparently, Ibrahim convinced her parents and sought their permission. Fatima and her mother stayed with the Dutta family for the ceremony.
That being said, this is not the first time people have stepped away from tradition to further inclusiveness. It was Swami Vivekananda who first worshipped a 4-year-old Kashmiri Muslim girl as Goddess Durga. It was for the Kumari Puja in August 1898 at Kheer Bhawani temple. At the time, it was considered a move that reiterated the importance of women in society.