Mahanabami and Dashami

Mahanabami and Dashami

October 22, 2015

Today is Mahanabami or Nabami, the second last day of Durga Puja. After the euphoria of Saptami and Ashtami, Nabami brings about a certain sadness, the end of the grand carnival being at hand.

This year, though, because of the way the timings of the rituals are, as per the panjika, Nabami and Dashami are on the same day. Of course, this wouldn’t lessen in any way the celebrations.   

Nabami begins with a lot of expectations, like the rest of the days. The joy is still in the air. Like on the other days, people visit pandals in large numbers, dressed in all their finery.

Festive spirit – dhunuchi naach

The highlight of Nabami is the dhunuchi naach, or dance with a dhunuchi, which is held in the evenings. It follows the sandhya aarti, that is, the evening puja. A dhunuchi is a big clay lamp with a flared lip. Slow-burning coconut husk is put inside, on which incense (usually camphor) burns. One is held in each hand by the dancer as he/she contorts the body (often to impossible angles) in gay abandon to the mesmerising drum beats of the dhaaki (drummer). A well-performed dhunuchi naach is indeed a sight to behold. The better dhunuchi dancers can easily give professional dancers a run for their money, such are their skills.

Dhunuchi naach is often considered the most exciting event of Durga Puja.

Dhunuchi naach is something in which men, women and children, all take part. Traditional dresses are often the norm for this dance. Competitions are held in many pandals. The often intense but friendly rivalry brings about a special flavour to these events. Competitions for dhaakis are also often held. Now with the advent of sponsored pujas, all these competitions often come with attractive gifts.

A clipping from a dhunuchi naach

Along with the excitement, Nabami also brings sadness. It is the fag end of the festival of the year. However, the next year will bring in another edition of the festival, and that calls for renewed hope.

Dhunuchi naach (


Dashami marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. 

The mantras that are chanted during the puja have a sombre, soulful strain to it: after all partings are never easy.

Doi-khoi or dodhimongol is offered, or it could be sheetal pantha (rice soaked in water) with punti machh (a type tiny fish, and it’s very tasty). As the offerings suggest, it is traditional in nature and has a rustic, earthy feel to it. A hundred and eight items are used to bid goodbye, and these are held in the boron dala, or tray.

Sindoor khela

Before the bishorjon, or immersion of the idols, comes an important event – sindoor khela. The khela, or playing with sindoor, or red vermilion, is traditionally meant to be done only be married women.

They offer baran (ritual farewell) to the goddess with pradip, sindoor, betel leaf and sweets. After this, they collect the sindoor from the forehead of the idol of Durga and smear each other with it to bid farewell to the goddess. It is also an occasion of bonhomie and coming together of women.

Sindoor khela ( DURGA)


Durga Puja ends formally with the bishorjon or immersion of the idols of Goddess Durga and her children (Mahishasura goes too, of course!).
After the sindoor khela arrives the hour of parting. With tears in their eyes, scrambling to touch her feet one last time, devotees bid goodbye to their beloved mother – Maa Durga.

The idols are usually carried on trucks to river banks or large lakes (where there is no river nearby). People crowd into the trucks and chant ‘Bolo bolo Durga Mai ki jai’ (‘Victory to Mother Durga’) and ‘Asche bochor abar hobe’ (‘Back next year’) all the way to the bank of the river or lake where the immersion is to take place. Then, all those on board, including the young, join hands in gently lowering the idols into the water.

With mournful eyes, people return to the empty pandals. In the evenings, cultural functions are organised in many localities. After Durga Puja is as much about religion as about culture – an amalgamation of all that is good.


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