October 20, 2015

Mahasaptami, or simply Saptami, is popularly considered the first day of Durga Puja (though the previous day, Sasthi is the day on which the rituals actually begin). Pran Prathistha, Kolabou Snan and Bodhan are the most important rituals performed on this day.

During dawn, just as the first light of the sun descends on earth, Kolabou Snan, or bathing of the Kolabou (which is a banana stem wrapped in a sari, signifying Lord Ganesha’s wife), and related rituals are performed. Through these, Pran Prathistha, or breathing of life into the idol of Goddess Durga, is accomplished. The idea is to symbolically symbolically transfer life from water to the banana tree, and through it, to Goddess Durga. The ritual is performed on the banks of a river or a pond.

The Kolabou ritual is an elaborate one. The Kolabou is brought back in a procession and it is placed near Ganesha inside the pandal.

Nabapatrika Puja (

Kolabou Snan is also known as Nabapatrika Puja because nine types of leaves are used (In Sanakrit, ‘naba’ means ‘nine’ and ‘patrika’ means ‘leaves’). The nine plants whole leaves are used are banana (kola), kochu, turmeric (halud), Jayanti, wood apple (bel), pomegranate (dalim), ashoka, arum (mankochu) and rice paddy (dhan).

During the early hours of this day, Goddess Durga is invoked in a group of nine plants bunched together, called Nabapatrika. The nine represent nine different forms of Durga. The nine leaves from the nine plants are tied to the twigs of white aparajita plant with yellow threads. The whole thing is then bathed in a river or pond, accompanied by the chanting of mantras.

Returning with Kolabou (

After the rituals, the Kolabou is accompanied back to the pandal to the beats of drums (dhak), cymbals (kashor) and bells (ghanta). Goddess Durga and her children are now live! They help uplift the mood of Puja revellers and spread an auspicious blanket all around. Pushpanjali, or floral offering to the goddess Durga, follows.

In the evenings, the streets, eateries and the pandals are packed with people. A better expression would be ‘pickled’ with people. Most maintain a mental diary of the number of pandals visited and anything new they spotted. While swimming through the surge of humanity or waiting in a darshan queue in front of a pandal, people do not seem to mind the waiting time. That man is a social animal is proof enough from this experience.

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