Memories of Puja - Srabani Biswas
The festival of Durga Puja starts with Mahalaya, the first phase of the waxing moon in Ashwin. Mahalaya marks the end of the Pitri-paksha and the start of the Devi-paksha. One of the most important rituals on Mahalaya is Chokkhu Daan – the ritual of painting the eyes of the Goddess.
Offering the eyes to Durga idol has a special significance; artisans paint the beautiful eyes of the goddess in the week hours and only a senior member from the artisan community is allowed to draw the eyes of Maa Durga. In Raj-baris and Bonedi-baris the “chokkhu daan” ritual is performed on the auspicious day of Mahalaya, this day marks the beginning of Maa Durga’s journey to visit her father’s house.
Listening to the deep voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra on All India Radio in a half-awake state at 4 am in the morning, the slight nip in the air and the still dark outside, peering out from under the lep (comforter) and stretching our ears to listen to Mahishashur Mardini, the realization of puja vacations at schools and colleges just around the corner – all these snippets of imagery bring back a flood of nostalgic memories.