Bishorjon or immersion is the time to say goodbye to Goddess Durga and her family.
Time to say goodbye to all the excitement and the holidays that kept us enthralled for the last few days.
Goddess Durga leaves early in the day every year – there is a hurry since morning to 'see her off' on time lest she is late for her take off to her abode, Mt Kailash.
Seeing Uma off
Puja begins early morning and the goddess and her family are offered a frugal meal as there is very little time to prepare an elaborate one. The mantras that are chanted have a sombre, soulful strain to it – partings are never easy.
Doi-khoi or dodhi mongol 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 offering suggests, it is traditional in nature and has a rustic earthy feel to it. 108 items are used to bid goodbye, and these are held in the boron dala or tray.
An example of boron dala
With chanting of shlokas or mantra, the symbolic immersion process is complete. A mirror, strategically placed so that it reflects the image of the goddess, is immersed in a brass vessel. Therein heralds the end of Durga Puja. Women believe those who soak their hands in the water of the immersion vessel become good cooks, so there is tough competition to be the first.
Evening is the time when the idols are taken for immersion. But before that a warm 'send off' is arranged. The face of each idol is wiped with betel leaves, and sandesh is 'fed' to the idols. Last but not the least, paan is put into the hands of each of the idols to signify a 'happy ending.'
The Bengali womenfolk adorning saris worn in the traditional way (often the traditional red-bordered white or cream saris are worn) offer vermilion at the feet of the goddess and say a quiet prayer, asking for long life and good health for their families. After that is over, women indulge in sindoor khela – a very popular tradition in which they smear each other with red vermilion, wishing long life for their husbands and peace and prosperity for their families. This tradition has been captured in many films and photographs.
Well into the evening, the idols are lifted onto trucks and lorries and the procession begins to wind its way towards a river, stream or lake, whatever is available. For Kolkata-dwellers, most of the idols are taken to the Hooghly for immersion. The trucks are packed with people and the uninterrupted beats of the dhaaks keep the revellers energised. The young (and sometimes the old too) often break into a breezy bishorjon dance, which is another very popular aspect of Durga Puja.
People selling balloons, whistles, caps, etc. make quick business as do the chai- and ice-cream-wallahs. The administration has quite a task – overseeing the entire immersion process. People have to get more conscious so as to not pollute the river excessively. Many good Samaritans and organisations collaborate to keep the rivers pollution-free.
At the immersion ghat, the idols are immersed with chants such as ‘Bolo Bolo Durga ma ki …Jai’ and ‘Asche bochor …abaar hobe.’ In all the chanting, shouting and dancing, one emotion that peeps through strongly is a tug at the heart-strings – the sorrow of having to say goodbye, knowing that the wait for the next Puja would be one long year.
Everyone leaves with one prayer or request to Goddess Durga – ‘ashche bochhor abaar esho Maa” (Oh goddess, do come again next year).
It may be the end of Durga Puja this year, but there are sweets waiting for one at home. That, however, will have to wait till after bishorjon!