Durga Puja Maha Ashtami: Namas Tasya E Namo Namah

Maha Ashtami

….As word spread about this celestial queen’s hi-fi background and war skills, naturally, her following grew and people started to share not only her stories, but also the ways and means by which to appease their Goddess.

With time, mortals themselves became the gods of small things, mastering extraordinary ways to fly without wings, sail without fins and communicate over long distances. Of course, we are yet to build a home on the clouds or make real-life 3D appearances wherever/whenever we wish to, but we’ve come a long way in emulating our hi-tech Gods in the heavens above.

What the Gods proclaim as miracle, is what we call the Internet. The World Wide Web is in essence the religion that the masses follow. Here, there is no barrier or boundary, no colour or race, no caste or creed. Anyone can sign in; entry is and will always be free.

No wonder, the Internet is the great leveller that has secured its place in lofty business towers cheek by jowl the most modest of homes. We may fail to spot a temple as we whoosh from home to work back home, but our eyes are transfixed on the computer screen for the greater part of our waking hours. Our palms may not join in prayer on a given day, but are as close as a phone can bring them. The Internet has cast a spell and captivated us. We are like the children of Hamelin following the Pied Piper, who knows where to…

Coming back to the festive spirit, the electronic or E media plays a large part in our annual celebration of the homecoming of Goddess Durga. Before the reign of the World Wide Web, the story of Madam Mahishasura Mardini had been already been told and retold. She was glorified first on air, then on television and eventually in her full animated fervour for book-shy children in compact disks. The tradition of the Goddess permeated into modernity like incense infuses into the air without anyone seeing it blend but everyone taking delight in its aroma.

Modern form

Then Durga Puja was upgraded to its most modern form which is at its best online. Now, the first, foremost and far-spread connection between Durga Pujo and the online culture is (no points for guessing) — shopping. It starts months before the real event since buying new clothes or gifts isn’t only confined to one’s family. There’s a long tuto line-up of relatives, who are generously included in the shopping list of the large-hearted Bengalis. And for the in laws, nephews, nieces settled far or in a foreign shore, e-commerce is a blessing.

Durga Puja is an online retailer’s dream season. Gift-giving is now only a click away as is giving one’s own wardrobe a makeover. With offers abound, e-shopping has its own appeal. Of course, the habit of stocking up one’s year-long clothing needs is a passé, yet no matter how many sales seasons retailers whip up, pujo shopping had, has and god willing will always retain its charm.

What’s even more interesting to note here is that it isn’t only the young and advanced millennial Indians who are into online shopping. Check out Facebook for the boudis and aunties thronging the cyber space for a traditional Jamdani or a pair of stretchable jeggings. Here, where between the eyes and the hands no one can give that dirty look, the only finger that is pointed is the one that is clicked to place an order!

Speaking of letting loose, it is not just clothing that runs the show. Rituals too have been uploaded without furore or fuss. Why should a Bengali be left out from the Ashtami anjali only because work or family ties has placed him or her in say Seattle or Tokyo? Certainly, the Goddess loves her non-residential devotees no less. Just like the ubiquitous Durga, her incantations have gone viral, filling up community centres worldwide along with dhoop, dhuno and dhaak.

After Durga and her children, the pundit was the quintessential figure in any puja premise only but a few years ago. Now, mantras are no longer the authority of a thakurmoshai. Rather, these are shared knowledge available to all and sundry. So with the intangible Internet giving the Brahmins a run for their money, who is to be blamed? For once, the long-privileged Brahmins are clueless. Yet among them are those who have accepted the changes that time has lugged along and adapted to them with dignity. In fact, you may have already come across a savvy pundit, who knows where the action is and has no qualms about choosing online ways to his means.

Live streaming

Today, live streaming of Durga Puja even by the likes of the renowned institution like Belur Math not only gives that feeling of being at home away from home, it also has a special way of including those who cannot physically play a part in the festivity. There are community pujas too that are being made available on the web for those who choose quieter holidaying once a year. The world is virtually in one’s hands, with Bengalis feeling connected to their annual autumn carnival no matter in how far-away a land they are. How? Install Skype and ya devi sarva bhuteshu is online-rupena samsthita!

Video uploads are a craze and flood the social media sites. From shabeki to barowari, the thakur dalan to the mandap, the plain pandal to the theme puja, the web of festivity that is woven in Bengal spreads worldwide thanks to the digital wave in India. There are websites exclusively dedicated to Durga puja that have slide shows of photographs, making the festival come alive on screen. A savvy Bengal has given the matri roop a smart look. It is truly inspiring to see the diva divine affectionately and indefatigably smile at the cameras of her swarming devotees, who assiduously aim the right click in every pandal. She, who hails from the yet unparalleled higher realm of technology, perhaps pities her admirers’ humble wish of uploading a photograph for a little appreciation in return and gladly condescends for that perfect picture. That’s the “wow” factor in Devi Durga — she’s the queen of hearts and the mother of all. 

(To be continued)

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