Durga Puja ropes in communities under a roof
Every year, for Durga Puja, Bengalis across the city take a break from their work so that they can be at the at service of the goddess Durga.
Every year, for Durga Puja, Bengalis across the city take a break from their work so that they can be at the at service of the goddess Durga. They are joined by a number of non-Bengalis, from regions across India, who owing to local influences pray to the deity with the same fervour as they would their family deity. Their ‘services’ rendered to the goddess take the form of managing queues, cutting and cooking the prasad and food items and even performing in the puja.
At the Ramkrishna Math and Mission in Khar, seven people from Kolhapur have taken eight days of leave from their work to be a part of the celebrations in the city. “On different days we do different things. Our work has been largely limited to cutting vegetables for the bhog that will be served from Sunday,” informed Sambhaji Mali, a 31-year-old distributor. Cutting vegetables for the bhog is no easy task given that around 1,200kg of vegetables are cut for 10,000 people at different times of the day.
“We cut the vegetables till 10pm at night and then start again from 2am,” said Shantaram Chandane, a 61-year-old resident of Panvel. Chandane was introduced to sewa during Durga Puja after accompanying his neighbours on one occasion. “I did the sewa and felt at peace,” said Chandane who has been performing sewa for the past 35 years. “We are all part of one body. If we serve one part, the benefit will come to all of us,” said Sapat Nayakawadi, an artist from Kolhapur.
While Chandane and the rest take break from their profession, there are others like Rashmi Mishra who make use of their professions as an offering to the deity. Mishra, a dancer by profession, started performing four years ago at the Powai-Hiranandani Durga Mandal. “For me performing here is connecting to God. I feel elevated. I feel as if the audience connects to her via me,” said Mishra who performed Nav-Durga at the mandal on Friday night.
Rajesh Nikam, another person who offers his services to the same mandal said, “Sewa gives you a feeling of fulfilment. It makes you feel that you have done something noble in your life.” Nikam also extends his efforts to serving bhog food. “I take trips to Vaishnodevi every year. When I do sewa here, it given me an opportunity to pray to her and serve her too,” he added.