At the midnight of Diwali, Kali Puja is performed by Bengalis. Tara, a garland seller at the Karunamayi Kali Temple, watches the temple committee arrange for the festival. Little by little, they have been arranging for Diwali since a long time. She has been in the hub of Kolkata since childhood. She has seen the goodness and evil, the opportunities and adversities, the lights and their darkness, everything. She has seen women being eve-teased on streets, called by various unkind names. Unfortunately, she has also been a victim of this eve-teasing. In this story, Subhajit tells us how the docile girl awakened the Goddess in her soul. Find out more about Tara’s voyage, her transformation. Here’s a story based on Kali Puja, as part of the Special Feature on Diwali, for Different Truths.
The night of the festive lights has arrived. Diwali is in the air. The houses are being painted and decorated with lots of lights and garlands to welcome the Goddess once again. Thousands of devotees seek Her blessings. The idol makers are busy giving their orders a final touch before they leave for the pavilions. Tara, a garland seller at the Karunamayi Kali Temple, watches the temple committee arrange for the festival. Little by little, they have been arranging for Diwali since a long time. She has been in the hub of Kolkata since childhood. She has seen the goodness and evil, the opportunities and adversities, the lights and their darkness, everything. She has seen women being eve-teased on streets, called by various unkind names. Unfortunately, she has also been a victim of this eve-teasing. Every day, out of hundreds of men who came to buy her garlands, ten didn’t leave any chance to hold her hand. She was fair and beautiful. Even when she left her hut at dawn, she heard couples fighting like cats and dogs. She returned home at night, tired and exhausted. It was not a single day when she hadn’t been taunted or wrongly observed by young men on her way back to home. While she observed few middle-aged men praying to the idol at the temple, out of whom one or two had once tried to offer her a deal, and smiled at their pretense. She wished to pull off their masks and show the world their reality but again consoled herself with the thought that the world is equally savage. She left the temple in no time and returned to her stall. She heard the priest chanting spells that she couldn’t understand. She asked the assistant priest who sat at her stall to help her understand what these words meant. As he explained these to her, she began thinking:
She is endless in her reign and existence.
She is a Mother, a daughter and a lady.
Her love is divine and equally distributed.
Her prowess, if challenged, would bring down kingdoms.
Her glory lightens and enlightens all goodness.
She is the epitome of triumph over sins and illness.
Her vigour is as fierce and fiery as her correctness.
If she is so strong, so pure to be respected
Then why are her incarnations left undulated?”
The priest broke her reverie and left the stall with a few garlands. She stood still. Her thoughts had engrossed her completely. She had taken a big step this morning. For the first time in her life, she opposed a wrong doing. Every morning, she was disturbed by a fellow garland seller’s nasty proposals. Today, before he could speak she slapped him hard on his face when he touched her waist. In front of everybody, she made him realise that he was wrong. Her eyes were red in anger. Without a word, he fled like a scared dog with its tail between its legs. Tara felt special for being born as a girl. A unique energy worked through her veins which energised her cells and tissues. Maybe it is just a beginning of her new self!
The morning worship had begun. The priest was repeating the mantras again and again for the devotees. There has been a long queue of worshippers. Tara was called for arranging the earthen lamps inside the temple for the devotees to light them and pray. As she put oil in the lamps, she got a chance to have a glimpse of the idol. The icon was dressed in dazzling silk and glittering gold. She smiled looking at Her. She has been sharing all her thoughts and emotions with Her, since she has begun selling flowers here. She was more like a friend than an entity, who is feared and worshipped by others. She prayed once again, while working:
“O Mother! You are said to be fierce
But I know you love your children
Yet why do You always pull me down
In mundane thoughts that storm the brain?
I am happy, staying away from world
Far away from sins and flaws.
Yet You dance on the dead and insane
Holding me tightly in your claws.
Mother! You know I am stiffened, cold
My heart is frozen, safely concealed.
Yet You throw me in these fights
Melt all ice and make me the shield.
Pulling me in the cosmic chain.
You enlighten me, brighten my hope,
Push my buttons to oppose this chain.
I am too tired to repeat my words
What they usually do, flinging mud.
They won’t change even if You came
And dawned Death to grow a new bud.
I ask You ‘Why? Why me always?’
Why don’t you choose a different fight?
A new fighter to battle with them –
As your incarnation to rule and abide.
I don’t want this silent pain again
I can’t bear Your utter denial
Me, a victim of unjust deeds
We are left to run the trial.
You are Great with that fierce falchion
Powerful yet lonely in this earthly war
None other than me, that’s quite weird!
Am I your right hand in this war?
I am saying it again, I am content.
Yet You have to oppose my Peace.
Mother! Am tired. Don’t pull me in
Can we just not stop and watch it, Please?”
The subjugation to end the worship had begun. Conches were blowing aloud. Drums had been roaring throughout the temple. Lamps were all lit. Camphor was burnt to pay their homage. Tara blew the conch with lot of enthusiasm. She had learnt the answer of her questions. She was a lady, not a mere helpless being. The Lords had manifested their powers in her. She had met her inner power, the person who she actually was. She might be a poor girl but not so poor to lose her dignity. She might not be a Goddess but the strength her hands had was no less than that those four hands possess. She felt like she had been born again, with a new identity, a new awakening. She has been searching for this identity for long and now that she had met herself, she felt freedom kissing her cheeks. Tara offered her final prayers for the morning before leaving with the offerings:
“She who has conceived the cosmos and Lords,
She who has consumed all sins and moss,
She who has nurtured all purity and beauty,
She who is taker and giver of everything,
She who is power and prowess of a being,
She who is mother and daughter altogether,
She who is omnipresent, perceived together,
She who is infinity in finite matters,
She who is omnipotent for all that matters,
She who has torn apart flaws and walls,
She who has culminated bonds of trust,
To Her I bow again and again,
To Her dark charm I surrender all pain,
At Her dark feet, I dedicate myself
As the hibiscus, Her favourite, I devote myself
She, The Dark Mother, Golden at Heart
Once a Mother, always a Motherly Heart
To Her this Measlier submits her devotion.
You are the only answer to all her questions.”
Tara was a new person. She was a human and a Goddess, at the same time. Her soul had awakened and also a new light had illuminated the darkness within her. Tara was reborn!
Subh Deepawali and Kali Puja to all!
Pix sourced by the author and the Net.