Goddess Durga has descended on the plains showering her divine blessings on one and all. Ambience all around has undergone a sea change and mood is euphoric. Bliss and festivity can be sensed in nook and corner. Mahishashura Mardini by Birendra Krishna Bhadra in the year 1931 on the dawn of mahalaya still remains a quintessential part of Durga Puja. Even today his rendition is mesmerizing and has not lost its gloss or popularity. Numerous TV channels have aired admirable programme on this occasion which are not only entertaining but educative too. Coverage on various aspects of Puja is remarkable.
The festival is celebrated all over India and has different rituals and festivities especially in the eastern Indian states. The nine manifested forms of Goddess Durga are: Shailaputri,Brahmacharini,Chandraghanta,Kushmanda,Skandamata,Katyayini,Kaalratri,Mahagauriand Siddhidhatri.Garia in south Kolkata is one of the few places which continue to worship NavaDurga during this period. Swami Vivekananda started Durga Puja in Belur math, West Bengal in 1901. He also started Kumari Puja during this period wherein nine kumar is were worshiped. The divinity with which Durga puja is performed is inimitable.
Durga puja has undergone phenomenal transformation, especially in West Bengal. Themes have become predominant feature of many pujas. Themes cover wide range of subjects like: environmental issues, historical facts, cultural facets etc. and are very informative. This gives an opportunity for artists to show case their skills and has given creativity wings. The grandeur and magnificence of the structures created is astonishing. For executing the themes,patronage and funds are essential which appears to be in abundance. In some places in Kolkata Pujas are inaugurated much before Sashti and footfall in these pandals is in lakhs. People with indefatigable energy wait for hours in the queue to get a glimpse of the theme pujas. The enthusiasm and excitement is unfathomable. Comparatively such footfall or enthusiasm is not perceptible during actual worshiping of the goddess. Are we losing sight of the core aspect of the puja? Besides the religious aspect the commercial aspect cannot be ignored. It has turned out to be a big industry in itself! This gives a big impetus to move ahead in positive direction and worship the goddess in proper spirit and with religious fervor. Debate between theme puja and conventional puja will continue endlessly. To blend theme with conventional puja may not be a bad idea.
In our self centered celebration we need to appreciate the unrelenting and selfless service rendered by the police, fire brigade and district administration. Day and night they toil for our safety and security.But for them our puja would be incomplete. Kudos to the entire administration.With the culmination of puja and victory of good over evil, let us ensure that all our mothers, daughters and sisters are shown the respect they deserve.
Lately human –wildlife and human-environment conflict appears to have reached a flash point. Bursting of firecrackers with total disregard to the order of the honorable court, violation of order of national green tribunal in Kolkata during Chhath, horrific killing of a tiger in UP, shooting of tigress Avni, invading core area of tiger reserve in Tadoba, electrocution of elephants in Odisha , death of deer’s in south India highlights our indifference towards wildlife , environment and orders of the judiciary. Sizeable population appears to be in a mode of denial. The biggest casualty has been the wildlife, environment and respect for the law. Where are we heading to?
Project tiger launched in 1972 has worked wonders and tiger population is increasing but paradoxically forest cover is gradually decreasing thereby fomenting hostility between human & wildlife. We need to stand as a nation to protect the wildlife to ensure human-wildlife live in harmony. Maharashtra is blessed with abundant forest cover with wide variety of flora and fauna and has a place of pride for having maximum wildlife sanctuaries in the country. Tourists flock to Tadoba, Pench, Bor, Nagzira, Tipeshwar,Umred-Karhandla ,Melghat for sheer beauty of the forests, varied wildlife and sighting of tigers. Tadoba undoubtedly is the best choice for sighting tigers. The recent incident of tigress chasing the tourists in Tadoba may act as a deterrent or conversely attract more tourists.
Pench tiger reserve is unique, as it is split between two states Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, with scales tipping towards Madhya Pradesh and famous for tales of Mogli. On the Maharashtra side which is less frequented, the reserve has a core habitat area of about 257 km2 along with a buffer/peripheral area. Surrounded by hills with Pench river flowing through the forest is a sight to behold.
Two years back on thirteenth of December we took an afternoon safari in Pench, Maharashtra and were the first to enter the forest, with no other Gypsy trailing us which was quite unusual. We were crestfallen when the guide informed that there has been no sighting of the big cat for quite some time. No sooner had we crossed the entry gate barely one kilometer in the forest, to our utter surprise and delight we were greeted by a tiger, standing majestically on the track with eyes glowing and surveying our gypsy. Within minutes a tigress emerged from the woods following the tiger glaring at us with disdain. We couldn’t believe our luck. The tiger and tigress disappeared into the forest in no time leaving their pug marks behind for the other tourists to advertise their presence. In our excitement we forgot to click the pair in opportune moment. Glee on the face of my son spoke volumes .We felt our trip to Pench was fruitful and more than over. For the next hour not even a single animal could be spotted in the lush green forest with undulating roads and the hills towering over us which were intriguing. It appeared as if the woods had devoured all the wild life. The forest appeared not only mysterious but fascinating. When we were silently nearing the buffer zone sound of deer and peacock permeated through the forest. Driver sped to the area from where the sound was emanating. As we kept entering the forest the sound grew louder and louder. We were squeezed on a narrow track with dense trees brushing the gypsy on one side and hillock on the other with no sight of the tiger. Barring the growling sound, nothing could be heard or seen for more than five minutes. We were expectantly waiting for the next sighting when the driver whispered that the tiger was just behind me on the hillock. I turned and froze in the jeep. The tiger was barely ten feet away crouching for the kill. Only the head with shinning eyes was visible. It was an eternity before the tiger shifted its stance and I started breathing again, relieved to be alive. Fortunately the tiger spared me to narrate this tale to everyone. Thirteen may be unlucky for some but not for me!
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and without malice towards the citizens, local authorities, district administration or any other concerned authority or company.